I was playing Fable 2 a while back and I came across a scene in the game that just blew my mind away: three female characters discussing battle plans!
I know, I know, it doesn’t sound all that exciting or mind-blowing, but can you tell me the last time you saw three females, with no males around, discussing battle plans, while wearing real armor and not some catsuit or chain-mail bikini, in any form of media? No? Didn’t think so. That is probably because Fable 2 was one of the first to show such a thing.
There exists, in movie-watching feminist circles, a simple way to measure women’s representation in film called the Bechdel Test. It’s really quite simple for a movie to pass the Bechdel test: it must (a) have at least two women, (b) those women must speak to each other at some point in the movie, and (c) it must be about something other than a man. Seems easy peasy right? Most movies should be able to pass that with flying colors, right? Yeah, well the number of movies that pass the test is disappointingly small. For example, of the 99 movies that the Bechdel Test Movie List reviewed in 2009, only 45 passed all three parts of the test, 32 had multiple women that were never allowed to speak to each other, and 10 movies didn’t even meet the ‘have more than one woman’ requirement. If women make up 55% of the world’s population, then why do 55% of films ignore women’s presence on the planet or in the plot?
Anyhoo, this was all brought to mind again when I began playing Diablo II a few weeks ago. According to my partner, I was a bad gamer for never having played the game and should he helped me remedy the situation. And as I was playing (I chose the female rogue character and he chose the Amazon character to play alongside me) I was struck once again by the oddity of having a game conversation consisting of nothing but females. The beginning of the game takes place in a refugee camp for the Sisterhood of Darkness (or some such, I missed the name) where you meet their female leader who explains that their sisterhood had been ousted from their secretive home by a female demon (I hate the term demoness) and were now trying to reclaim their lands. Every player in that plot line was female, it was amazing. I know it seems silly to gush over such a thing, but next time you play a game or watch a movie, try and notice how many times you see a plot line where everyone involved is male. It seems natural for it to be that way because we have been so conditioned by the media to expect such things.
I’m thinking that I may start doing reviews of the movies and games I consume and make note of if they past the Bechdel test. For movies I will use the Bechdel test as is, but for games I think a little more is in order: a game passes if it has (a) more than one woman npc, (b) these women talk to each other, (c) about something other than a man (with bonus points if they’re not in catsuits or chainmail bikinis!)