RavenBlack (ravenblack) wrote,

4.8 on the Bechdel scale

Recently there was this thing purporting to measure relative sexism in Dr Who, between writers.

It struck me that the Bechdel test actually does a pretty lame job of measuring anything meaningful, because it simply assumes that men are strongly represented. As a simple flip-switch (as it was originally written) it's fair enough, but you can't validly draw conclusions from it, and it's especially poor for the purpose given in the article, measuring relative sexism.

To explain what I mean, I'll give my alternative; instead of (as the article does) measuring screen time and talk time for specific characters, we should measure all the characters' conversations. The classic Bechdel says we must have two female characters have a conversation with each other that's not about a man. A simplified expansion on this then, I say we should also check whether we have two male characters that have a conversation with each other that isn't about a woman. I suspect that many Doctor Who episodes would pass neither of these tests; if so then that's not sexist, it's just stories that aren't conversation-driven (or mostly involve conversations between two or more genders).

I'd also suggest some sort of exceptions for title characters. You can hardly call the writers of "Mr Magoo" sexist for most of the show revolving around a guy, it's clearly the focus of the show. That would be a totally separate measure of societal sexism, how many shows are based around males versus based around females. (How do we score Mrs Doubtfire on this metric? Maybe one point for LGBT?) If we were to roll that rule in on the Doctor Who measuring then my guess is the results would make it look like Russell's Who episodes were disjointed and rambling (but with female characters talking to each other!), whereas Moffat's episodes have strong focus and most of the time actually involve the Doctor. What a sexist bastard, strongly featuring the title character in a show he's writing. String him up.

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