The Bechdel Test: A Call for Representation

No study of female representation in media is complete without the Bechdel Test. Advocacy for diversity in every field is increasing, as it should. Yet, few understand the need for it in movies. Everybody loves movies, they tell stories that leave us crying, laughing, and always longing for more. They’re a different kind of comfort food. There’s a movie about anything you could name. But, we see a pattern in most of them. A code of conduct that a majority of filmmakers follow.

The Bechdel Test created by Allison Bechdel in 1985 is a test of the representation of women in fiction. Although it can be used to analyze books as well, its original focus was cinema when it was introduced in the form of a comic strip by Bechdel who credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf. There are three criteria a work of fiction must include to pass the Bechdel Test:

Do you see how little the test asks for? Note the words ‘at least two named women’ and ‘anything besides a man’. On first reading this, I thought; How hard could it be? We’re in the 21st century! I’m sure 80% of the movies I’ve seen easily pass it. You will be surprised at the number of movies you consider ‘hits’ and ‘blockbusters’ which barely pass the test.

Take a look at the numbers- a report shows that just 33.1 percent of speaking roles in 2018’s top-grossing films. We see an improvement in the 2019 numbers where 45 to 54.9 percent of all speaking roles were women. So, we have two or more women who talk to each other- you’re almost there just one more step and your movie has passed the test. But here’s where most films fail. According to the criteria, these women must have at least one conversation (this conversation only has to happen once for a film to pass) about something, anything besides a man. It leaves so much to the imagination!

A BBC Analysis of the Oscars revealed that fewer than half of the 89 films named best picture passed the test. Why is this the case? Why are filmmakers still struggling to fulfill the most minimal criteria? Besides, if the largest and most influential film industry in the world can’t implement the Bechdel Test in its award-winning movies, how should we expect the rest of the world to follow?

I think the most common misconception people have of the Bechdel Test is that it asks for ‘feminist’ and women-centric movies. But the plot of a movie does not have to revolve around the conversation of its characters. A movie needs to have some reality to it, so why doesn’t the scene cut to the female supporting characters talking about the news, or their favorite show, or even the game last night? Instead of how cute that guy is, should I text him? Women have other things to talk about too, you know.

When it comes to having two named female characters, I think a well-rounded personality is all we’re asking for. Someone who isn’t just defined by that one line they said or the plot of the movie.

Now I’m not saying all films should have the same characters, the same storyline. But a little representation wouldn’t hurt. Diversity makes this world stronger, it’s the sundae and the rest is the cherry on top. There are some great movies out there made by some talented people, but their uniqueness gives them that wow-factor. Although its criteria seem quite normal, the Bechdel Test asks for something different in today’s film industry. I think it’s time we see that change!

Which of the movies you’ve seen pass the Bechdel Test?

P. S- If you’d like the names of some movies which pass the test I’ve included a link under sources.

This is a line from the ‘Carry On’ series by Rainbow Rowell. It’s one of my favorite series and the first place I read about the Test!

SOURCES:

2019 Statistics| Women and Hollywood

2019’s Bechdel Passing Films

What is the Bechdel Test and why are movies still not passing it?

It’s time to move beyond the Bechdel Test

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC:

The Bechdel Test: Is It Still Relevant Today?

Movies I Like That Pass The Bechdel Test

Review: The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

According to me, the one thing which makes cultural fiction engaging and one of my favorite genres are the picturesque descriptions and eloquent language used, which is a common thread in most novels of this genre. It’s something I mentioned in my review of Girl, Woman, Other as well.

The Bastard of Istanbul is another such masterpiece of vivid writing and the author takes us deep into Turkey, highlighting its history and the lifestyle of its people. The plot revolves around two families interwoven by fate and it begins and ends on the same note, which is something you wouldn’t expect. Although the character’s experiences and stories are the essences of the book, a large aspect that moved the plot along was its focus on the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This was, which is something other bloggers wrote about too- a topic most of us don’t know about. But I think that’s one of the best parts of any art- it pushes you to learn more about an area you may know zilch about because, without knowledge of it, you wouldn’t understand what the artist is telling you.

The two families of the book are- the ‘Kazancis’ and the ‘Tchakmakhchians’ who are Turkish and Armenian Americans respectively. The book, however, goes into more detail on the Kazancis, a family rooted in Istanbul and female-dominated.

The Tchakmakhchians on the other hand, are based in the States having moved there after the genocide. But they remain authentically Armenian, with their culture and religion vibrant in the household.

The two main characters are Asya – namely the ‘bastard of Istanbul’ and Armanoush or Amy who’s half Armenian and whose American mother marries into the Kazanci family. Thus, begins the series of revelations as Amy visits the Kazancis in Istanbul. We see how both the girls have goals of their own which progress throughout the book.

To some extent, I did feel like some characters and their experiences were clichés. For instance, the main characters- Asya, the rebellious, outspoken girl in a conservative family and Armanoush, the shy, goody-two-shoes who loves to read. The author also includes many stories and perspectives, which became confusing and boring at times. Yes, each member of the family had a history, had something going on but some of them had no connection to the plot.

There were some aspects and storylines of the book which I think were very well expressed. The centuries-old bond and enmity between the Turks and the Armenians, and how the former denies the genocide ever happened which from what I’ve read, is what the Turkish government does to date. I liked the way the link between both families was ultimately shown.

The book touches upon how the past, present, and future work in tandem with one another, shape one another. How something like the Armenian genocide affected the Tchakmakhchians greatly when it occurred in 1915, but also troubled Armanoush generations later as she bared the burden of her family’s oppressive history while trying to embrace the place which oppressed them.

Final thoughts~ Apart from certain far-fetched aspects of the plot, the book is captivating and takes you through every alley and street of Istanbul. Besides, even if you don’t like the story at least you’ll learn the names of various Turkish and Armenian dishes- which will be a mouthful to say at first, but soon you’ll be well-acquainted with the dishes and tempted to try them!

Which other Turkish authors have you read?

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

THE BASTARD OF ISTANBUL- REVIEW

The Bastard Of Istanbul- Elif Shafak

A Goodreads Review

All Book Marks Reviews

Stop and Smell the Roses

Staycation. The term has really been trending this year!

Staycation:

A holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.

Source:https://www.lexico.com/definition/staycation

I recently got to go on a staycation of sort. Obviously, due to the current situation, none of us can travel. But, if anything this pandemic has shown us the human race’s ability to adapt and in this case we did! Instead of their trips to Paris and shows in London (and retreats in Bali and charities in India) celebrities are posting pictures of their elaborate homes with gargantuan lawns where they plant trees and ride their horses every morning.

Of course, they have a full face of makeup on and are drinking ‘organic kale juice’ while doing so.

After months of staying home; missing out on an entire year of school and bored with the four walls of my home, I decided I needed a change of scene. Fortunately, my parents were on the same page. We concluded that the best way to have a vacation while staying safe at the same time was to go somewhere close to home, by road.

So, we set off for the weekend on a six-hour drive to a resort on the hillside. The drive wasn’t really a road trip, since we had a destination but yet I took it upon myself to curate the perfect playlist which was basically the families’ favorite songs (it took me two minutes to make it). As we went further out of the city and into the hills, I could feel myself drifting into stay-cay mode. We were surprised at how full the resort was. I guess everyone needs a break but nonetheless, we wore masks and sanitized religiously. It’s the new norm and we have to get used to vacationing this way right?

The view all around was breathtaking and the weather was perfect with it being pleasantly cold. It rained every night followed by fog the next day. The perfect setting to crack open a new book alongside a cup of coffee while listening to Conan Gray. It may not seem appealing to you but it was my ideal staycation. We spent most of our time inside the resort, walking around or playing games. There were a few trails nearby and so, we went trekking every morning.

The trails we went down were beautiful, with different flowers and plants adorning the path but most importantly, they were empty. So, for once we weren’t viewing the dreaded outdoors with a masked perspective! The treks were freeing and refreshing because there wasn’t a soul around. Just us and the open road. The end was the best part, the view was like something from a Bob Ross painting.

Of course, I have to share the view with you 🙂

All in all, the staycation was a godsend and all of us agreed that it was something we unknowingly needed. Who doesn’t need a break right?

Everyone, no matter who you are needs some time for relaxation and recreation at some point. We’re not machines after all. Taking a break isn’t a sign of laziness or illness, it’s normal. Everyone at every stage of life needs time off- as a student I do and as adults, my parents do too. In my post, Living through History while Postponing Revolution I wrote about being troubled by the sword of productivity hanging above my head and how the present situation makes it harder.

However, I think that regardless of what’s going on around us, those feelings of exhaustion that sometimes come upon us, be it mentally or physically will always be there. That’s why when you feel stressed, overworked or overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break.

I’ve come across so many online personalities who document their lives online, take a break from social media or their job occasionally. I’ve even seen bloggers in the WordPress community who’ve taken some time off posting for almost a year and have returned feeling stronger and more inspired to write than ever.

Your surroundings may be telling you to catch a breath in many ways. You just have to recognize it. A break doesn’t only mean a staycation. It could mean going off all social media for a while or unwinding with a favorite hobby or favorite food. As long as you feel at peace and ready to take on any challenge at the end of it, it’s a break.

So, put your feet up and take a breather, everything else can wait.

What’s your go-to me-time activity?

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC: It’s Okay To Take A Break

A Bug In My Beer- News and Nonsense from my Staycation

Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I’m open to reading all genres but by far, my favorites are historical and cultural fiction. These past months I’ve been trying to read and learn about black culture, history and educate myself in any way I can. So far, I’ve always found a book for anything I need to know and that’s first source I turned to. While diversity and representation still struggles to thrive in films, it has been prevalent in literature for years!

Now, I’m not saying that this one book taught me all I need to know. But it certainly taught me something new in every chapter. Girl, Woman, Other spotlights the stories of twelve, black and British characters across the age, gender and class spectrum. It won the Booker Prize in 2019 and I’m not surprised, this book totally deserved it. It’s witty, engaging and impossible to put down.

The book is divided into five chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter revolves around the stories of three characters, who are all connected personally. They are all primarily black, female and some are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Apart from their experiences we see how their race, shapes their personality in a large way. The book begins with Amma, a lesbian playwright whose currently fifty years old and nervous for the premiere of her newest play. She looks back on when she first came to London in 1980, a fierce feminist ready to oppose anyone who puts her down. She meets Dominique, whose story is told later in the chapter and the both of them start a theater company with the aim of telling black and Asian women’s stories. If I told you the rest, I’d be spoiling it but Amma’s play is the basis of the book. The characters of the other chapters are all connected to her play in some way- from its watchers to its critics.

Another thing I’d like to highlight is the poetic telling of the book. The punctuation is unique and confusing at times but it’s what keeps the story going. I noticed that the characters in each chapter are so similar yet different. For instance, as the first chapter goes on we read about Amma’s daughter, Yazz who is nineteen years old and quite like the young version of Amma we read about earlier. The three women of the chapter are strikingly similar in terms of the what they stood for, what they’ve gone through. Each of them were disliked for being outspoken. Yet, Yazz never connected with her mother. Even though, both women stood for the same cause, they were never on the same page.

I observed this pattern across the book where characters in such relationships went through the same. I think it simply shows how we as human beings often struggle to communicate or find common ground with one another and looks for our differences rather than or similarities. It goes on to tell us of Carole, a successful banker who went to Oxford. She rejects her Nigerian roots and her background having had a traumatic experience, leaving her mother, Bummi disappointed. Then there’s Shirley who wishes to be more while her mother, Winsome wishes her daughter would stop whining. There’s also Penelope, the main focus of the epilogue. She’s adopted and brought up in a white family but not knowing her true heritage bothers her.

This book is inclusive on so many levels. One of the first things that compelled me to read the book was the acknowledgements. (I’ve attached a picture at the end) Something which I feel should be normalized and seen more often is stories like the last chapter- about a non-binary person called Megan/Morgan. A certain part of the chapter is written under the pronouns ‘they/them’ and it was great.

I also realized how we have managed to categorize an entire community by one word. Take ‘black’. It stands for a community of Nigerians, Somalis, African Americans, British Americans, Ethiopians and that doesn’t begin to cover all the people of different faiths and ethnicities.

Final thoughts~ I highly recommend this book if you wish to learn about black history and culture or if you’re interested in books which raise timeless questions about feminism and race.

The compelling acknowledgements

Living through History while Postponing Revolution

#blogging #pandemic

We’re in October. When did that happen? Only two months and this nightmare of a year will be over. But even though we’ve all been saying things like ‘I can’t WAIT for this year to be over!!!’ what are we hoping for? Do you think the minute the clock strikes 12 on the 31st of December, that COVID-19 will just vanish into thin air? Or will vaccines fall from the sky into our hands? The year does not have anything to do with the unfortunate events that are going on in the world. Racism, bad presidents, wildfires and violence against women are all things which were always prevalent and will continue to remain prevalent in 2021. Only the dates of their happenings will change. But amongst everything that has happened in the past 9 months, of all the changes that this pandemic has brought about, something that I find really hard to believe- something I still can’t fully wrap my head around is the fact that what I’m currently going through, what we as a world are going through is living history. This pandemic is a global crisis, a major milestone on the timeline of the human race. It’s something that students decades later will probably study. Coronavirus and the toll it’s taken on the world, what it’s putting the human race through is something that history books will record, that generations like me will look back on. Stories will be written about it and generations to come will talk about it and wonder, what we went through during this time. It’s the same way we talk about the plague or the Spanish flu. There are entire books and movies based on past pandemics. We find those black-and-white or brown pictures; of people with masks on the infected lying on hammock-type beds. I can imagine it: as students of the future are given the list of history’s worst pandemics, the coronavirus pandemic will be at the very bottom. I’m hoping it will in fact be at the bottom and no other successes it.

This is from an article I read which was the inspiration for this post. If you’d like to read it, I’ve attached the link at the end!

However, back to the present, did we all forget that 2020 was supposed to be THE year. The start of a new decade, plans for a better world were made. Visionaries had set out to change the world in 2020! Our leaders had promised us, ‘By 2022, India/USA/China/Saudi Arabia/ literally any other country will be at the top of the world!’ they said. Right now, with the economy crashing I do not see that happening any time soon. For me in quarantine, every day is pretty much the same. I wake up, attend classes for school if I have any and then spend the rest of the day just laying around. But every night, before I sleep I plan the tasks I want to accomplish the next day.  Say, complete the three projects I have from school or do something productive instead of just watching television or being on my phone and of course, I always find myself in the same, unaccomplished position. But so far, writing regularly is the only thing I’ve managed to keep up. The work I plan to do each day almost never gets done and I feel guilty every single day for being a procrastinator. But, in times like these when every day things just seem to get worse and even walking out my front door seems impossible…. I feel unmotivated. And I think that’s okay. This generation of the human race has NEVER seen anything like this before. So, trying to push yourself to actually get something done when anxiety is taking over your brain because the world feels like it’s coming to an end is hard. I’m sure everyone has had what I call the ‘2020 panic attack’ before. All I’m telling myself right now is that it’s okay to do nothing because we all need a break, sometimes. Things feel out of place and getting back to normal is currently every person’s fantasy. So, one day I WILL tick off each task on my to-do list: 

1. Complete schoolwork

2. Get out of bed before 12

3. Learn 2 languages

4. Write a book

5. Sketch a scenery 

6. Cure cancer

7. Become a revolutionary and change the world

You know, the usual things we all do to pass time! Jokes aside, if you’re having a bad day and it happens to the best of us, just relax. What is the most relaxing activity you can think of? Do that. I’ve been having one of those weeks and I call such days/weeks a mental health break. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and feel motivated and energetic enough to do stuff, to have a productive quarantine. That day is just not today. 

This is from an article by the New York Times which really lifted my spirits about not being productive. The link has been attached!

ARTICLES WORTH THE READ:

The New York Times Article

We Are In The Midst Of Making History

Hi there!

#zerotohero #blogging

Welcome to my blog, A Writ Much! As I write this post I’m still struggling to figure out the many process of starting a blog on WordPress. It really isn’t easy huh? The minute I filled in the name, a million other requirements and emails just came flooding in! The next morning I had almost 25 emails regarding my website in my inbox. Before I move on, this post is simply an introductory one. I figured I’d let readers into the mind behind this screen, these words. If you’ll go to my home page, you’ll see I have a slogan; my words speak louder than my actions. That statement could not be truer because I am indeed the most awkward human being you will ever meet! I would rather jump off a cliff than attend a gathering with a bunch of people I don’t know. I feel like every time I speak a bunch of sounds come out of my mouth. My social awkwardness and reserved demeanor often leads people to believe the misconception that I have no opinions whatsoever. But the truth is, that I have a lot to say! So, here I am typing these words hoping you’ll read them, hoping you’d like to read what I have to say.

I’ve never been the diary-type of girl as I find the idea of jotting down every event of my boring life utterly useless. Instead I maintain a journal which I only write in when I need somewhere to vent. But I thought to myself, it’s time my writings had an outlet and a blog felt like the best way to connect with others who might think or feel the same way I do!

That brings me to the next thing, I already have a bunch of topics in mind and I can’t wait to get started on them. I don’t want to give too much away but my posts will be ranging across multiple topics like book reviews, opinions on current affairs on societal stigmas and opinionated posts. Mental health is something really important to me and certain issues like activism, equality and writing which are really close to my heart will be featured daily.

I really just want to be recognized, to connect with others and know that I’m not alone on certain things because sometimes that’s something that helps, knowing I’m not alone. I hope that you, as a reader will relate to my content too and come back for more because that’s really all I want.

I’m just someone who wants to be heard and I hope you will help out:)

Anyway, signing off now, I can’t wait to get writing!

P.S: The slogan and name of my blog, both have a little play on words.

Let me know in the comments what you think they’ve been adapted from!