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Message withdrawn at poster's request.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.


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.

Imsosorryalan Thu 17-Jan-13 21:46:26

Slightly off topic but I am finding it hard to actually find many current cbeebies programmes with positive female leads!
Everything's Rosie?
Angelina boring ballerina? - hardly inspiring..
<hops back over to feminism boards, grumbling>

Schooldidi Thu 17-Jan-13 21:46:52

There are quite a few that wouldn't pass either way aren't there?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 21:47:01

DadOnIce, there are a fair few episodes of Doctor Who that do fail (the one with the scary dollhouse, for example). But a lot would probably fail a test whereby any two characters who are not the Doctor discuss something that isn't the Doctor, or the Doctor and Rory only talk about Amy.

So an episode with Amy and River in would pass if they were discussing their travels but fail if discussing Rory or the Doctor. Ditto an episode with Rose and her mum or Martha and her mum might or might not pass depending on subjects discussed.

( I love Doctor Who and RTD is much better than most at gender mix and also his female characters are pretty varied, unlike Ballpark's description above)

Schooldidi Thu 17-Jan-13 21:50:42

Imsosorry what about Nina and the Neurons, I can cook, Me too! (Granny Murray is brilliant!!), Wooley and Tig (dd2 loves this). These are the ones we watch most often.

PelvicFloorClenchReminder Thu 17-Jan-13 21:51:14

The Flumps - pass
Bagpuss - pass
Little Einsteins - pass

The Wombles - fail
Ivor The Engine - fail

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 21:57:53

Well IgglePiggle and Makka Pakka talk in ITNG sometimes. And Wiki says MP is male.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 17-Jan-13 22:12:42

Dangermouse, massive fail. sad <clings devotedly to DM boxset despite its fail>

DoubleYew Thu 17-Jan-13 22:14:04

Agree, I think a lot of ones for younger viewers are hard to do as lots of the characters are hard to sex or don't really speak. I mean what gender are all the Tellytubbies? How do you tell?

Alphablocks - pass surely?
Show me Show me - pass
Me Too (I had to look up what this is called, the "Honey Pie" one) - Pass

Not sure about other progs, will watch with (slightly more) interest.

Imsosorryalan I really like Woolly and Tig. She is allowed to be grumpy or scared or whatever, sure she learns a lesson but I find it a refreshing change from all the simpering. Plus its not her job to mother all the other characters. But her dad is the gay one out of Taggart which I always find a bit distracting!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:17:00

Will record w

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 22:17:29

double, Everything's rosie fgails for me on the basis that Rosie is "mother" to all the other characters, most of which are male, and that the boy is an utter little shit. I guess that's not the bechdel test though.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:18:21

Will record wooly and tig and Me Too - thanks.

Scooby Doo probably mostly fails.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:19:43

Rory the racing car -fail - though Cici and the female mechanic maybe talk occasionally?

TomDudgeon Thu 17-Jan-13 22:20:25

Tweak and dashi so two
Suspect it still fails though. Can't think of any times those two talk to each other

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:21:49

My friends Tigger and Pooh - maybe 50:50? Darby must talk to Kanga and the hedgehog character sometimes...

Maisy Mouse - I think this passes as both Maisy and Tallulah are female, though whether they engage in conversation is debatable hmm

Thomas - big fat fail.

Pingu - erm. Not entirely sure what gender all the characters are or what they 'talk' to each other about but Pingu is deffo a boy penguin.

I have a toddler. Can you tell?

I also have a 9yr old DD and I don't let her watch any TV aimed at children her age as I find it all utterly narsty and depressing. So I have no idea about TV for bigger kids. She does like films though, I shall pay close attention next time we watch something. The last thing I can think of was Mary Poppins which I think passes.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Thu 17-Jan-13 22:27:56

Scooby Doo passes every time the main villain is female because Velma always does the exposition. Daphne and Velma don't talk to each other much, but there's normally a decent size cast of guest stars for them to talk to.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:36:12

Good point, ladyIs - I was thinking that velma and ds

Queen, I think the seal is male, the baby sibling is female. There was a female friend in Pingu and the Snowboards. So where mum and sister are featured, it's a pass - otherwise mostly a fail.

Christ, this shit is In My Brain. I used to Know Things. <sobs>

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:36:53

Velma and daphne rarely talk, that was supposed to be.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 17-Jan-13 22:38:53

If I don't know what they are talking about because it's not real language, I'm giving it benefit of the doubt if it's two named females talking.

Lazytown? Are there any girls in the gang apart from Stephanie?

Ah but what are they talking about? Its hard to tell grin but I suspect its Pingu himself a lot of the time which would make it a fail?

stubbornstains Thu 17-Jan-13 22:40:08

Abney and Teal only fails because there is only one male character and one female character and all the rest are indeterminate (oh no, sorry, I forgot Toby Dog, he must be male..And then of course, there was the slightly odd episode where Bop had babies, which means she must be female)

. But Teal is the active, adventurous character, whereas Abney is the careful, home loving one who cooks and knits....

Oh ok x post there.

pluCaChange Thu 17-Jan-13 22:42:15

Big Barn Farm: pass (Petal is so self-centred, she would never talk about anyone but herself. Her mum, Mrs snuffles, is similarly besotted by Petal)

Show Me, Show Me: I think it passes, if you accept that Pui's ventriloquising is interaction with female characters like Momo and Miss Mouse.

Numberjacks: BIG pass! Three may be annoying, but she's dynamic, and she does adance plots. the "older" numbers are more expository, and since every other is female, that's all covered.

64 zoo Lane: pass

Good discussion idea!

Imsosorryalan Thu 17-Jan-13 23:08:40

Yes, I'll accept Woolley and tig and nina but thinking of this from a positive role model perspective and not linking this to a bechdel test;

I can cook- its another woman..doing the cooking.
Me too! - a woman looking after the kids

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Thu 17-Jan-13 23:17:33

One of the million reasons I hate ZIngzillas is because it replaced Space Pirates, which wouldn't have passed the Bechdel Test but showed decent female characters. The girl crewmember wasn't just one of the smartest characters, but she was active and scruffy as well. The singing rat who led the band was a girl. And they showed quite a few female musicians and singers - and now there's ZingfuckingZillas which has girly wussy squeaky females who are usually in the way or having to be looked after, and very few female musicians.

TheSmallClanger Thu 17-Jan-13 23:38:37

Tracy Beaker, although disliked on MN, passes.

nailak Fri 18-Jan-13 00:03:24

Ben and holly pass

Mickey mouse pass

The winx club pass

Kid detectives pass

Handy manny fail

Oso fail

MikeFlowersPops Fri 18-Jan-13 00:14:46

I find cbeebies massively sexist. Everything's Rosie is appalling, as is Driver Dans story train and Zingzillas. I don't remember kids tv being this bad when I was small <showing my age here>

LadyKinbote Fri 18-Jan-13 05:30:21

Little Princess - pass
Dora the Explorer - probably pass depending on who she meets along the way
Green Balloon Club - pass

Po (red) and Lala (yellow) are the female Teletubbies btw.

SpeverendRooner Fri 18-Jan-13 06:59:36

I was just about to say the opposite about Dora the Explorer. Among the recurring characters, Isa, Mum and Grandma are the only female characters and only Isa gets a name. Arguably Backpack is a named female (within the Dora naming conventions), but she seldom interacts directly with Dora. The quest objectives sometimes come from named females in which case the episode passes, but the majority (that I've seen, at least) fail.

LadyKinbote Fri 18-Jan-13 08:19:20

Speverend you obviously watch more Dora than me!

lisianthus Fri 18-Jan-13 21:35:42

Rastamouse- pass. Yippee! Bechdel test Has it's limitations, but is an interesting tool. The Tweenies pass, but the girl characters were so awful it is the only show I've actually banned.

Trekkie Sat 19-Jan-13 00:10:31

Peppa pig and Ben & holly - same makers - deffo episodes that pass AND have funnyness for grown-ups which is a plus. Today we had the Mutiny on the Bunty episode which is a personal fave smile

other than that... hmm... we are generally off cbeebies and into disney jr and dear lord it's awful

allthegoodnamesweretaken Sat 19-Jan-13 00:39:13

queenoffarking Mary Poppins definitely passes, plus the mum is a suffragette.

notcitrus Sat 19-Jan-13 01:01:10

Rastamouse fails every episode I've seen - Scratchy never gets to talk to the rare female minor characters.

Two Octonauts episodes pass out of 50 or so, when Tweak's friend Sandy the turtle turns up. The Penguin Race special actually has Dashi and Tweak conversing, but about Hugo...

Alphablocks passes - A and I are female.
Balamory passes easily.
Bob the Builder, Postman Pat, Roary the racing car - may pass sometimes.
Andy's Wild Adventures, fail as Kip only talks to Andy.

noblegiraffe Sat 19-Jan-13 09:23:33

Tilly and Friends passes. Three out of the six characters are female, including the lead. Unfortunately Pru, the chicken, is vain and obsessed with her appearance but this is used humorously rather than as something to aspire to. The male characters are all quite caring and gentle rather than going out and having adventures while the girls make tea, in fact the most actiony of the characters is Doodle, the female crocodile.

snowshapes Sat 19-Jan-13 12:59:06

Well, DS has developed a liking for Peppa Pig, so we watched 'Mummy goes to work' this morning.

It may pass the Bechdel test, but here is what happened:

Mummy Pig at computer doing 'important work', Daddy Pig in kitchen making soup. Peppa and George ask Daddy Pig if they can watch Mummy Pig working, end up sitting on her lap, bashing the keyboard, and 'breaking' the computer. Mummy Pig calls for Daddy Pig to come and fix it while she goes and finishes the soup. Daddy Pig fixes it by switching it on and off. Daddy Pig and children pigs end up playing some chicken game and giggling, Mummy Pig finishes the soup, comes upstairs and joins in the giggling at the chicken game. The End.

I'm just hoping that Daddy Pig got the kids dressed for the park after they had eaten the soup and left Mummy Pig in peace and quiet to finish her important work (but you don't see that bit).

noblegiraffe Sat 19-Jan-13 13:15:46

Daddy Pig gets a raw deal, he's frequently incompetent and has to be rescued by Mummy Pig.

LaCiccolina Sat 19-Jan-13 13:17:26

Sheesh u need to run this test to know the general answer?

snowshapes Sat 19-Jan-13 13:19:55

okay, I will reserve judgement until we have watched more episodes of Peppa Pig then.

Waybuloo passes, and I'd have though ITNG does too.

Haven't been exposed to much other new Kids TV yet, so 80's ones that pass
Button Moon
Fraggle Rock
She Ra

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sat 19-Jan-13 14:07:03

Hmm I have doubts about Mary Poppins because Mum's suffragetting is clearly interfering with her ability to be a good housewife and mother - DC are neglected because she's messing about with politics hmm.

Definitely passes the B test though.

In Mary Poppins don't the children end up being really proud of their mum and even the dad is won round at the end?

Hobbitation Sat 19-Jan-13 14:19:11

Kids TV was massively more sexist in the 80s though, and indeed TV in general. Practically all female characters were accessories and you hardly ever had a female lead. If there was a female character they were a stereotype. I was frustrated by this as a child and I'd never heard of feminism. The girl was always the weak one who needed rescuing or who tripped up in the woods when they were being chased by the baddies.

Sometimes now I find it slightly unbelievable when all female characters in something are kickass heroines. Let's have a variety of characters! Men and women can be wimps!

Really? I know I grew up with stuff like She Ra and Jem and the Holograms. They were usually the ones doing the rescuing, not being rescued! Oh and Cheetara from Thundercats!

Schooldidi Sat 19-Jan-13 16:09:35

My favourite program when I was growing up was SuperGran. That definitely passed as the gran had a granddaughter who was brilliant, wore dungarees all the time and constantly out performed the grandson.

Charlizee Sat 19-Jan-13 23:14:00

My little pony- pass with flying colours.

The Simpons isn't a show for young kids, but it passes on the episodes that focus on lisa or marge. These 2 characters feature a lot more episodes focusing on them than early seasons.

Night Garden has a small handful of female characters- upsidy daisy, 1 of the tombliboos and half of the pontipine family. But characters in this show have even less of a volcabulary than the teletubbies. Apart from squeaking all they can say is their own name.

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