We've all heard of the Bechdel Test. Hopefully. Please tell me you've heard of the Bechdel Test. It's kind of the world's favorite oft-misinterpreted method for monitoring how terrible women's representation is in film. The rules go a little something like this:
1. Are there two lady people with names in the movie?
2. Do they say words to each other?
3. Are those words not about a man?
If the answers to those questions are all "yes," then congratulations! The movie has passed the Bechdel Test. Even if the women were named Whore and Slut and they spoke for 15 seconds about how much they love eating at Hooters. It's a low bar. That's kind of the point.
A lot of people think the bar is too low, partly because they don't understand that the Bechdel Test started as a joke, and partly because they really wish America didn't fail so hard at female representation that we've actually ended up taking the Bechdel Test seriously.
But I disagree. I don't think the bar is low enough. We obviously need a way to work up to the Bechdel Test. Baby steps. And we all know women love babies.
Ladies and gentlemen, (probably mostly gentlemen, let's be honest) I give you the Sexy Lamp Test.
In the words of Kelly Sue DeConnick herself, the Sexy Lamp Test works as such:
"If you can remove a female character from your plot and replace her with a sexy lamp and your story still works, you're a hack."
There are some great movies that pass this test. The new Avengers movies, Frozen, Brave, Legally Blonde, and even a few Katherine Heigl movies.
But there are a lot that fail. Many more than one listicle could ever document, but I will try to give you the best of the worst that female representation has to offer.
Superman: Man of Steel (2013)
All Lois Lane does in this movie is fall out of the sky. I don't know how she won that Pulitzer, because it is pretty hard to write when you are a glorified rag doll being thrown out of a plane. The sexy lamp would at least have been quieter about it.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Okay, so it was made in the '60s and it's a cinematic masterpiece. It's a cinematic masterpiece made in the '60s starring a sexy lamp. The original Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Maybe the lamp smokes a cigarette or something.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Everyone is going to be mad about this one because HERMIONE, but it's true. This sexy lamp can be turned on only when this SUPER OBSCURE SONG called "Asleep" by The Smiths is played. You can just prop it up in the back of the pick-up truck while the misfit band of precocious teens play the elusive, mysterious tunnel song that turns out to be "Heroes" by David Bowie. Okay.
The Great Gatsby (Every Adaptation)
This test requires a certain amount of suspended disbelief, but I actually think we could literally replace Daisy Buchanan with a sexy lamp and absolutely nothing would change. It could remain the pawn between two deeply unlikeable and creepy men, as it is an actual inanimate object. It would even have comparable driving skills to Daisy, so all the right people would still die. Just stick a green light bulb in there.
I said a few Katherine Heigl movies, not all of them. 27 Dresses gets a pass and Grey's Anatomy doesn't even technically count as a movie, but this one fails hard. The most important thing Katherine Heigl's character does in this whole movie is pee. Which I guess a lamp can't do. But maybe a sexy lamp can? Just speculating here. I'm pretty sure Ashton Kutcher hauling around a sexed-up lamp while shooting suburban soccer moms isn't much of a stretch from the actual thing.
This story by Jenni Berrett first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women's website.
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