Star Trek and the Bechdel Test

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by tafkats, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. tafkats

    tafkats Vice Admiral Admiral

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    For those unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test, the name comes from this "Dykes to Watch Out For" strip, in which a character says that she only watches movies that meet three criteria:

    1. It includes at least two women ...
    2. Who have at least one conversation ...
    3. About something besides a man.

    The TVTropes page linked above notes that failing the Bechdel Test does not make a work bad, nor does passing the test automatically mean the work is socially conscious or feminist in any way. But it is, nonetheless, interesting how many works fail the test when they would easily pass a gender-reversed equivalent.

    So how many Star Trek episodes would pass?

    Most of TOS, I'm guessing, would not, Uhura being the only female regular.

    TNG would fare slightly better, but not by much. Crusher and Troi do have scenes together, but often they involve dishing about the men they're involved with (say Devononi Ral, Ambassador Odan or Grandma Howard's ghost lover). The scene in "Thine Own Self" where Troi asks Crusher why she took the test to become a full commander definitely counts, and the Crusher-Guinan conversations in "Suspicions" likely do as well (yes, they're about the murdered male Ferengi, but they're really more about the investigation than about Crusher's relationship to anybody). There are also some Crusher/Ogawa scenes that would count.

    I have to imagine most DS9 episodes would pass, since Kira and Dax are so much more prominent than Crusher and Troi. At the moment, no specific scenes come to mind, but I just don't know DS9 quite as well.

    Most Voyager episodes would pass easily, with Janeway, Torres, Kes and Seven routinely having conversations about a wide variety of things.

    Enterprise, probably not for the most part ... I can't remember a whole lot of T'Pol/Hoshi interaction.
     
  2. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In What Are Little Girls Made Of? Andrea and Christine have a talk, in which Andrea reveals that she is a android (and they discuss males too). Given it brevity, I would not call it a conversation, but it did happen.

    There is a brief, more question and answer, between T'Pau and T'Pring in Amok Time, about T'Pring willingness to fulfill her role at the end of the challenge.

    There is a very nice exchange between Christine and Uhura in The Changeling, where Uhura is being re-educated. "Bluey."

    .
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  3. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Kira and Winn certainly had conversations about things other than men, since they spent most of their time sniping at each other over religion, hypocrisy and power. (It's hilarious to think of what conversations they would have had about men.) :rommie:

    Kira and Dax also discussed topics such as edible giant spiders and non-edible giant hats.
     
  4. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm sure that VOY would pass it, since I don't believe Janeway and Seven talked about men... or Janeway and Torres, or Seven and Torres. Then there's the Borg Queen... no, I can't see talk about men there. :lol:

    Oddly enough, I'm less sure about DS9 since Kira and Jadzia scenes did talk about men and dating several times that I remember. Ziyal talked to Kira about Dukat a lot, and when it wasn't about him it was about Garak, so, again, not sure. But yeah, Kira and Winn definitely pass the test.

    As for Enterprise - I don't remember T'Pol and Hoshi ever talking that much to each other, except in the MU. But we do get the scenes between T'Pol and her mother, T'Pol and V'Lar, and T'Pol and T'Pau, and I think between T'Pau and T'Pol's mother.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except that role is to become the property of the man who wins the fight, so that's very much a conversation about a man.
     
  6. M'Sharak

    M'Sharak Definitely Herbert. Maybe. Moderator

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    T'Pol and Hoshi did have one conversation which would pass the test (while aboard the Klingon ship in the S1 ep "Sleeping Dogs") and which had the potential to lead to an ongoing (and test-passing) dialog between the two of them. Unfortunately, I don't think the writers ever referred to it again.
     
  7. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In Insurrection, Crusher and Troi have a conversation about their boobs.
     
  8. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Which, tangentially, is interesting, because theoretically, Vulcan women are the "property" of their men, but it is clear here that T'Pring is fully in control of the situation and would be subordinate to no one. In fact, she is taking the ancient traditions and rituals and using them to her advantage.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Yes, but still, all of T'Pring's actions are motivated by her choice of men, so it doesn't pass the Bechdel.
     
  10. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    Hoshi and T'Pol had a conversation in an early ep in which Hoshi swore at T'Pol in Vulcan which got T'Pol miffed (for a Vulcan)

    Don't tehy also converse during Minefield about the Romulans?
     
  11. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Can I just say that the whole concept of the Bechdel test is pointless and provides no useful information about a television series or episode?

    Carry on...
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's a little coarse-grained, perhaps (and one shouldn't expect more from a "test" presented in a comic strip), but I can certainly see the intent behind it. A great many women in fiction have historically been defined as extensions of male characters, or as being preoccupied with romance or marriage as their only goal in life. Gauging whether a story includes multiple female characters who have something going on in their lives that isn't about men is a good way of gauging how well the story avoids sexism, stereotyping, or marginalization of women.

    It's sort of like the Drake Equation in astrobiology -- it's not really a precise formula that can be used to make meaningful calculations or judgments, but is more of a rhetorical tool that helps to codify and call attention to the factors that are relevant in evaluating the question.
     
  13. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The test does say things about the show (or movie) in question. On reflection, the only near example during TOS was the sickbay scene between Christine and Uhura, and even that wasn't stickly speaking a "conversation." Contemporary to Star Trek, was Lost in Space (not always well thought of), how hard would it have been to find a conversation that meets the conditions of the Bechdel Test? Probably pretty easy considering the number of regular female characters. Bewitched (two female leads), easy to find. Mission Impossible (action adventure), easy to find that conversation. When Roddenberry made the decision not to cast a regular female lead in the second pilot, he "doomed" Star Trek never to have the conversation that would meet the criteria of this test.

    It says something about TOS Star Trek that two female guest star apparently could not be hired to provided this conversation. Or a guest star and a secondary character to discuss relevant plot points.

    You can not simply put it down to "It was the 60's," because there were sci-fi, fantasy, action-adventure shows in that time period that did.

    :)
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't know about that. They only had one female team member at a time (at most), and their roles usually involved being the femme fatale, seducing or distracting men; whereas female guest characters were usually romantic interests for the male characters. There weren't that many female characters overall so they didn't have that many opportunities for two women to interact. And when they did, it was often over a man. I finished watching the whole series straight through not long ago, and I've been trying to think of conversations between two women, and the first one that springs to mind right now is a jealous clash between a character's girlfriend and a waitress he was flirting with. Oh, and yeah, I think I remember a scene where a blind girl who'd sheltered one of the male team members was reassured by the female team member, but it was very brief. The main Bechdel-passing one that occurs to me now is a scene where Dana (Lesley Ann Warren) strikes up a conversation with a bar owner played by Loretta Swit and convinces her to give her a job. Though basically Dana's whole reason for being there is to try to catch the eye of a man they suspect of being a murderer, and that man is in the background of the same scene, watching her with interest.
     
  15. spooky spice

    spooky spice Commander Red Shirt

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    No, you can not.
     
  16. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    I think it's interesting and has a point. It provides information about the characterization of women in a show/film, doesn't it?
     
  17. Destructor

    Destructor Commodore Commodore

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    Clearly, it does, and anyone who doesn't see the point of Bechdel is doing so intentionally.
     
  18. A.V.I.A.F.

    A.V.I.A.F. Captain

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    I gotta say that I am totally floored. It is very, very difficult to find an episode that passes the Bechdel Test and yet so easy to find many that would pass it if we reverse the genders.

    I'll keep trying though, but the fact that it is so difficult does say something about the portrayal of women in fiction.
     
  19. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I guess I see the point, I just disagree with the entire premise that it's pushing. Frankly, the question is irrelevant in my mind, and provides me no insight into whether or not there are good female characters or not.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The question is whether the female characters in a work of fiction are defined as something more than extensions of the male characters. By itself, no, that isn't specifically a standard for defining a good female character, since there can be good female characters who are defined by their relationship to men, and bad ones who aren't. But given how hard it is to find women in movies who aren't defined that way, it's reasonable to say that stories that do manage to include such female characters deserve credit for it. And it's reasonable to point out that the bias exists and that more creators should make an effort to address or avoid it. It's relevant in the aggregate.