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July 13th, 2008


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06:25 pm - Thought Exercise For Feminist Literary Geeks
How many of Shakespeare's plays pass the Mo Movie Measure?

I am lazy and going mainly by memory, but "As You Like It" passes (most of Celia and Rosalind's conversations are about men, but they also talk about how much they love each other, and make plans for escape.)

In Romeo & Juliet, Lady Capulet, Nurse and Juliet all talk about Juliet's future-- they're talking about marrying her off, but the conversation isn't about a specific man, and it's focused on what's best for Juliet.

"Twelfth Night" passes, although Olivia doesn't know it at the time.

The witches in "Macbeth" ought to pass, but I'm not sure spell-casting counts as conversation. I also thought "Much Ado About Nothing" would, but looking through, I don't think it does.

Anything else?
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From:tortoise
Date:July 14th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
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Macbeth doesn't pass if you require the characters to be named.

I thought Richard III would pass, based on Margaret and Elizabeth's interactions, but they're all pretty man-oriented.

Merchant of Venice might qualify on the basis of Portia and Nerissa's conversation in V.i, which has no actual men but uses classical references containing metaphorical men to make a philosophical point. (Unless it has some significance in context that I'm missing; I thought the bits of III.iv that are about clothing might let Much Ado pass, but since they're about Hero's wedding day that really doesn't work so well.)
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 14th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
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Shit, you're right about Macbeth. Fail. I actually would let Merchant of Venice pass based on that-- I think if it's not a specific, flesh and blood man, I would count that as "a conversation that's not about a man"; I don't know about the wedding-day clothing thing. My tendency is to keep the bar really, really low, partly just because it's shocking how many modern movies fail even if you let in things like that. So Much Ado passes, as far as I'm concerned. Barely, but it passes.

Shakespeare does better than Warner Bros. apparently...
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From:secant
Date:July 14th, 2008 07:17 am (UTC)
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Hamlet: The only remote hope is Ophelia and Gertrude. They talk during Ophelia's madness, and I don't know if that counts as "about" anything. Or maybe they have a few lines during the Play-Within-A scene? Otherwise, I think nil.
Othello: Pass, Amelia and Desdemona have whole philosophical discussions.
Lear: Pass, Regan and Goneril. Conversations about how to take Lear's kingdom and leave him destitute don't count as "about a man" to me.

Much Ado: Check III.i. Hero talking to Ursula about how to trick Beatrice. And half of the later conversation is about Beatrice, not just Benedick. Pass, though by the skin of its teeth.
Tempest: Complete fail. Only one female.
All's Well: The Countess and Helena talk a fair bit, and men may be mixed in to all their conversations, but not the sole subject.
Measure for Measure: Isabella and Mariana have a few passing lines in V.i which are not about men, but I don't think it counts.
Midsummer: Helena and Hermia talk, but men are almost always the motivation. If Titania's fairies are played female, though, her dialogue with them is enough to pass.

Fun game.
[User Picture]
From:kira_dancing
Date:July 14th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I liked it :0)

I wanted Gertrude and Ophelia to work, but I really don't think they do; it's really not a conversation. I considered Regan and Goneril, and rejected them on the "it's all about Lear" basis but I guess they deserve credit for political machinations-- the question I have is, I seem to remember most of their discussions still being about Lear's mental state and how to manipulate him personally, which, to me, is well-motivated, but still All About The Man. It's been a while since I read Lear, though, so it's probable that I've forgotten pieces.

Helena and Hermia get a double fail for pissing me off.
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From:secant
Date:July 14th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
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Looking more carefully at Lear, I think I may have been hasty in passing it. Regan and Goneril scheme in I.i, but that's totally phrased in terms of analyzing Lear's recent decisions, and that's no good. They scheme again about knights and economics in II.4, but they're batting Lear between them rather than talking to each other. They snipe at each other in V.3, but it's motivated by Edmund. And Cordelia has one conversation about Lear, and never sees her sisters again. So, in spite of a lot of almost, it's a failure.

Agreed, reluctantly, on Gertrude and Ophelia, and not-so-reluctantly on Hermia and Helena.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 14th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I actually got out my Complete Works for Lear. That one makes me mad, because I really kind of like Regan ang Goneril... I wants them to kick ass.
From:happy_dr_friend
Date:July 15th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)
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Oh, come on. Regan and Goneril are plotting to take over a kingdom. It's only about Lear insofar as Lear is an obstruction to their taking over the kingdom. Give them a pass. I'm also half inclined to give Macbeth a pass, just because the witches are so clearly characters, even though they aren't actually named characters. Disturbing how much I have to reach to give any of them--or many modern movies--a pass.

While we're on the subject, can you think of any work of fiction (play, movie, book, cartoon, etc) that fails the anti-Bechdal test, that is, that doesn't have at least two male characters who talk to each other about something other than a woman? Bechdal's work comes to mind (though not the recent stuff), but other than specifically lesbian related work? The only movie I can think of that remotely fails is the Triplets of Belleville, which had very little dialogue at all.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 15th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
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... Maybe. I really like Regan and Goneril (girls who plot to take over kingdoms are hot). The reason I (and others here) rejected it is that if you go back to the text it's shocking how much is really absolutely Just About Lear-- they're taking over the kingdom, but almost every line is about him and his psyche specifically.

I actually think that the witches not being named characters is a big deal-- they're not individuals, they're basically a unified force that's there for the reaction it produces in Macbeth. I love the witches (I've been one!), but I don't think they get to pass.

The anti-Bechdel test! Heh. I'm inclined to think that some romantic comedies might not pass, but there's almost always something going on in the man's life besides the woman. On the bright side, I think a lot of romantic comedies, puke-worthy though they may be, pass the actual Bechdel test for the same reason-- the woman has to have something going on in her life before He arrives. Of course sometimes what she has going on is frequently another man, so a lot of them fail.

... I hate romantic comedies, at least the ones that don't involve murder or something...
From:happy_dr_friend
Date:July 15th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, after thinking about it, I decided that the witches' dialogue with each other was basically a monologue since they are interchangable characters. If Witch 1 were clearly different from Witch 2 I'd be inclined to pass it, even without names, but given the lack of differentiation, I have to agree with you.

I haven't watched a romantic comedy in...er...does Hedwig and the Angry Inch (which passes only if you count Hedwig as female, a controversial call IMHO) count? If not, I think the last one was in the 1990s.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 15th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
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I saw one a few months ago on TV. I don't remember who was in it, what it was about, or how it ended, but I remember that it hurt me deeply...

I really need to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It's some kind of travesty that I haven't yet. I'm sorry, world.

:0)
From:happy_dr_friend
Date:July 16th, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
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You do. It's good.
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From:jenn_possible
Date:July 16th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
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Oddly enough, and unrelated to Shakespeare, Mean Girls does not pass the anti-Bechdel test. I'm almost completely sure that no male talks to another male, which is super rare for any movie.

Also, I'm pretty sure Titus Andronicus passes.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 16th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
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Really? I've been horrified by Titus Andronicus since I saw the extremely graphic movie version with Anthony Hopkins, so I'm not so well up on it. I should probably read it...

Also, for anyone who hasn't seen it, Mean Girls does pass the actual Bechdel test-- I wonder if movies for teenage girls are more or less likely than movies for grown-ups to pass. That's the only one I've seen in a really long time, so I'm not in a great position to speculate. Anyone?
From:genevievedus
Date:July 16th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
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One movie I found that certainly passed the Measure and failed the reverse was Juno. There is never a conversation between any male characters which is not about a woman--usually Juno. The majority of the characters in the movie are women, even unimportant characters which could have been played by either gender (such as the lawyer and ultrasound technician).

Another is the Indian film Water. Since it's about widows who live in an ashram it shouldn't be surprising that the vast majority of characters are female and talk about a lot of stuff. There might be one conversation between Narayan and his friend which was not about Kalyani...but that's it. It's not mainstream, but it was a beautiful film.

And then there was All Over Me, an explicitly feminist, Riot Grrrl-tinged lesbian coming-of-age story. Definitely passes. There might have been one conversation between the two gay male characters which had nothing to do with women, but I can't quite remember.

Just a few I thought of. Pretty sure the only one that most people have heard of is Juno, though.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 17th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
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I've heard of Water but not seen it, and I think I actually did see All Over Me once upon a time. I may have to see it again, though...

And yeah, Juno kicked butt in a lot of ways :0)
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From:rumblerush
Date:July 17th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
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Oddly enough, the Silent Hill movie passes the anti-Bechdal test. The only two male characters in the movie only have conversations that revolve around either the female lead, the female lead's daughter, or the female villain. They're both peripheral characters, and I'm not even sure the cop is named. While there are some homoerotic undertones to the movie, that's certainly not its main thrust.

But I heard that the director of Silent Hill originally intended the movie to have no male characters at all. He was forced to add the two male characters by the studio. So this might be failing the anti-Bechdal test only through sheer dedication.
[User Picture]
From:kira_dancing
Date:July 17th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
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Sheer dedication counts!
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From:hal_obrien
Date:July 24th, 2008 07:31 am (UTC)

Test

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"Hamlet: The only remote hope is Ophelia and Gertrude."

Depends on casting. I was in a production of Hamlet once that cast Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as women. Although my favorite piece of casting on this topic was the one I heard of where Ros and Guil were one actor -- and a Senor Wences hand. (ROSENCRANTZ-as-Wences: My lord, you once did love me. {beat as Hamlet sizes up the crazy person} HAMLET: And do still...) It's the slashiest.

Edited at 2008-07-24 07:31 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:kira_dancing
Date:July 24th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Test

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That's pretty cool. Although I have to say that if we're assessing Shakespeare as a writer, gender-blind casting doesn't help him ;0)
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From:tortoise
Date:July 14th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Ariel points out the French scene in Henry V (III.iv), and the interaction between Julia and Sylvia in Two Gentlemen of Verona where Sylvia asks Julia about herself (the very end of IV.iv).

For what it's worth, I also considered and rejected Goneril and Regan.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 14th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh, go Ariel! I forgot about both of those completely.
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From:cheshyre
Date:July 15th, 2008 02:51 am (UTC)
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Of course, in Shakespeare's day, all the female roles were played by boys (or men).

Not sure how that affects the Measure...
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 15th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
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Measure for measure, I guess...

Well, on the bright side, all the action was man on man (...OMG like so teh gay...)

;0)
From:fuchsialucia
Date:July 15th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
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Hmm... I'm going on memory here too, but how about the English-lesson scene in Henry V? Granted, Katherine's whole reason for learning English at all is so she can talk to Henry, but the conversation itself is about the translations of various words. It's also imho the most hilariously juvenile scene in all of Shakespeare. (Some of words Katherine asks her nurse Alice to translate for her sound very like dirty French words, especially the way Alice pronounces them.)
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 15th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
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Hee hee! Forgot about that. I love Henry V.
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From:rurouniidoru
Date:July 16th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
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Othello manages to pass. Desdemona and Emilia talk about death, Desdemona's mother's maid, and infidelity as a concept for a few pages, even. I had to look at it to make sure, but it's there alright.
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From:kira_dancing
Date:July 16th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
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That makes me happy, I wasn't sure if they had an actual conversation that wasn't about Othello. I always liked Desdemona, and Emilia is just kickass.
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