Putting Children's TV to the Bechdel test

(72 Posts)

Usually films are put to the Bechdel test and fail miserably. For anyone unsure what this test is - the film has to include at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. Sounds easy, but very few films pass it.

I've started to pit Kids TV against the Bechdel test to see how many programmes pass, to see what the message is being sent to my DD at an early age.

For those of you who have Disney Channel, a good example is Jake and The Neverland Pirates, where 6 of the 7 main characters are male, as is the parrot and even the sodding ship that they sail on. There is one female character, who, of course is dressed in pink and is only called into action when pixie dust is needed. Other girls are generally mermaids or parrots in distress, who need Jake and his crew to come and save them. Giant FAIL.

Pick a program and put it to the test - does it meet the bechdel criteria? Give it a go!

DadOnIce Thu 17-Jan-13 12:39:52

Most of Russell T Davies's TV work, from Dark Season and Century Falls in the 90s through to Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures in the last few years, passes easily.

(How is this "talking about a man" thing defined, incidentally? In a Bond film, if Naomie Harris's Moneypenny and Judi Dench's M discuss Bond and his mission - which is fair enough as he is the main character - is this "talking about a man"?)

meditrina Thu 17-Jan-13 12:43:47

Sarah Jane Adventures: pass
MI High: pass
Tracey Beaker: pass
Danni's House: pass
Sadie J: pass

Apart from Hacker Time, it's hard to think of one on CBBC that fails.

feministefatale Thu 17-Jan-13 16:08:06

(these are all American and for young children but might be on netflix or something like that)

Sesame street passes, but it definitely needs more female characters to be in line with the amount of male characters

Word Girl passes.

Martha Speaks passes.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 17:18:09

DadOnIce - yes, the bond discussion fails, it's not just a romantic conversation.

Thomas the Tank Engine - fail
Fireman Sam - mostly fail
Pingu - mostly fail

feministefatale Thu 17-Jan-13 17:29:36

I'd say the fact that the male character is the main character kind of implies it too. Not counting the pages and pages of mumsnet discussion regarding how sexist it is in the first place.

Smudging Thu 17-Jan-13 17:35:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

emskaboo Thu 17-Jan-13 18:03:16

Abney and Teal fail; although to be fair Neep appears to be without sex or gender characteristics so....

MMMarmite Thu 17-Jan-13 18:23:51

How is this "talking about a man" thing defined, incidentally? In a Bond film, if Naomie Harris's Moneypenny and Judi Dench's M discuss Bond and his mission - which is fair enough as he is the main character - is this "talking about a man"?

I think it is "talking about a man", unless the conversation revolves more around the gadgets or the politics than Bond's actions. AFAIK, the test is designed to show whether women are just treated as 'accessories' to main male characters, either as love interests, mothers, daughters, assistants, coworkers... If moneypenny and M have a conversation about M's work, then the film is fleshing out M's character and giving her more depth, but if their conversation is about Bond's work, then the conversation could be seen as little more than a means to advance Bond's story. The subject is still centred on a man, even on the rare occasion that no men are on screen.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 18:29:09

Tree Fu Tom - fail

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 18:29:57

Mike the Knight - fail

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 18:31:52

Hmm, not sure about ITNG. At least one of the Tombliboos is female and she may sometimes talk to Upsy daisy, and half the Pontipine and Wottinger children are female.

grin

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 18:35:20

Nina and the Neurons - pass! And it would pass the gender swapped test too as two male Neurons often talk about the task.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 17-Jan-13 18:40:49

Tweenies passes, surely?

And a programme with a male lead can easily pass the B test, and will normally be the better for it - M's interrogation by a female MP about failings in her role is a sign that the film takes her seriously as an individual, not just as "Bond's Boss" (I know there are problems with the presentation of the female MP, but from a Bechdel point of view it's a win).

Generally speaking TV drama sails through this stuff whilst films struggle - it's a side-effect of ensemble casting and the need to flesh out each character.

Lessthanaballpark Thu 17-Jan-13 20:00:17

I don't like to be too picky cos I know we fems have a reputation for nit-picking grin but sometimes I think that even when females are well-represented numerically they are not portrayed in a very nice way.

One stereotype that really annoys me is the one where the female character is a real know-it-all without much of a sense of humour and is juxtaposed against a relaxed easy-going male. Or when two females are shown together they are often in opposition to each other, with the haughty-toity one invariably being the more power-hungry/feminist one who needs bringing down.

It's like with Tracey Beaker, Tracey's a pill and lots of the female characters are downright mean to the boys

I think an extra criteria to the Bechdel test should be where the two females are not in opposition.

Of course this problem would be solved if there were more female characters, because they would be less representative of women as a whole and could afford to be more nuanced.

Smudging Thu 17-Jan-13 21:06:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Schooldidi Thu 17-Jan-13 21:14:38

Wooley and Tig - pass
Something special - fail
Me too! - pass
Tweenies does pass this test, Bella and Fizz often talk about things other than men/boys. It may not be great as a representation of females but it does pass this test.
Chuggington - pass

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 17-Jan-13 21:22:22

The Bechdel test is what it is - it's subtle and revealing both about the industry as a whole and individual films, but it has its limits.

If The Hurt Locker/The Hunt For Red October/Castaway fail the Bechdel test then that doesn't make them actively bad films that feminists should object to. 27 Dresses and Sex and the City 2 pass the Bechdel test comfortably, but that doesn't mean that they are "good" films, or that the Bechdel test needs to be altered to exclude them - just that it is not the only criterion on which you can judge a film.

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 21:26:08

Fecking Zingfeckingzillas fails since the only two female characters do not speak to each other in any meaningful way since one of them is inarticulate. And the bloody beach byrds all speak in one voice. Can you tell I hate ZZ?

Octonauts. Only one female character. Never goes on any adventures.

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 21:28:29

Interesting that the programmes that pass the bechdel test are mostly aimed at older children and the ones that fail are for the littlies. Arguably, by the time they move on to CBBC it might actually be too late though.

Schooldidi Thu 17-Jan-13 21:29:02

Balamory - pass
Bob the builder - fail most days but ocassionally passes
Baby jake - fail
Charlie and lola - pass
Cloud babies - pass (I think, I'm not sure of the gender of all of them)

Schooldidi Thu 17-Jan-13 21:30:31

Most of the programmes dd2 (age 2) likes are passing, so she must have picked up some good habits somewhere along the way.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 21:33:07

I assume "I Can Cook" passes.

greensnail Thu 17-Jan-13 21:36:31

Peppa pig, pass.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 17-Jan-13 21:36:45

Some of the baby ones wouldn't pass a male version of the test either though - eg Teletubbies and In The Night Garden. I reckon if it wouldn't pass either version it should get left out of the stats. Agree that Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine are pretty much fails though.

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