Quick disclaimer before we begin: I’m totally aware that UPB has a limited range of movies to choose from, and any critique on gender inclusivity in film should be directed towards Hollywood screenwriters. Cool beans? Cool beans.
Way back when I was a tiny little first year Duke, I loved trotting over to Grafton-Stovall every so often to catch a cheap movie. JMU’s University Program Board has been bringing recent films, advanced screenings, and holiday favorites to campus since the 1970’s, which has provided some of my friends and I with wonderful memories. But is UPB also bringing gender inclusivity in the movies they choose?
In order to determine whether or not women are being represented in UPB-chosen films, I’ll be using the Bechdel Test to judge the twenty films UPB has shown during this school year. The Bechdel Test, founded by my homegirl Alison Bechdel, has three main criteria in order to pass: the media must feature two named female characters, they must have a conversation with each other, and it must be about something other than a man.
Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, according to bechdeltest.com, only 57.8% of surveyed movies meet all three criteria. I might be alone in this one, but I see two or more women have conversations that aren’t about men, like, hourly. What’s up, Hollywood?
Like I said before, UPB has shown twenty movies in the past five months. And how many of those movies pass the Bechdel Test? Drum roll please…
Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised. That means UPB’s Bechdel ratio is at 80%, which is well above the national average (slay, y’all). While there’s still some work to do in order to bring up that national average, I’m glad that UPB is keeping representation in mind when choosing films to show at JMU. Snaps!
In addition, the twenty movies that UPB has shown this year have been fantastic in representing a range of identities: films like Crazy Rich Asians, BlacKkKlansman, The Hate U Give, and Green Book represent people of color well, and Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born feature prominent queer characters.
Now, The Bechdel Test is a very basic and arbitrary way to test for gender inclusivity — I mean, Bohemian Rhapsody passed the test because in one scene, a woman (who has four lines in the whole movie) asks another woman to show her to the bathroom, and that sole interaction allows the film to be considered “gender inclusive.” Plus, some films have strong feminist themes, yet don’t pass the test — Mulan and Gravity are two examples.
Not to mention, the Bechdel Test only considers on-screen representation; if I had more time to research, I would want to know how many women were involved in the behind-the-scenes aspects of each of these films. Are women able to tell their own stories, or is that left up to a man?
With all this in mind, I do believe that UPB is bringing inclusivity to their movie selections. Just a quick glance at each month’s movie list gives you a variety of strong female storylines. Keep it up, UPB!
2 thoughts on “Is UPB Bringing Gender Inclusive Movies to JMU?”
I really appreciate that you saw the Bechdel test as a valuable tool, while still acknowledging its limitations. Well written post and a great switch-up to the typical format!
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Thanks Sarah!!! I totally agree that the Bechdel test is a great baseline for gender inclusivity, but if the female characters aren’t three-dimensional or solely existent for the male characters, can we really pass the film as feminist?
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