Welcome to the first Weekly Roundup, where we recap whether the shows we’ve tracked this week pass the Bechdel Test and/or Mako Mori Test.
Since this is the first one, here’s a refresher on the standard definitions for each test (or rule), as well as the specific criteria we use in order to standardize application of the tests.
Bechdel Rule: 1) At least two women 2) who talk to each other about 3) something other than a man
This rule comes from the original comic, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” by Alison Bechdel (1985), and was inspired by Bechdel’s friend, Liz Wallace. Alison has stated that she would prefer the name of the test honor Wallace’s contribution and thus advocates calling it the “Bechdel-Wallace Test.” Generally, we will refer to it as “The Bechdel Test” in order to minimize confusion, but we do acknowledge that it should formally be known as “Bechdel-Wallace.” Most applications use the added requirement that both women must be named.
We therefore call it a “soft pass” if the women are not named, as opposed to a “hard pass” if they are both named. We also require that more than one woman has a speaking part, despite the fact that the original rule cuts off criteria #1 at “at least two women.”
Mako Mori Test: a) At least one female character b) who gets her own narrative arc c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.
This rule was proposed by tumblr user chaila as an alternative and complement to Bechdel, in response to the film Pacific Rim, which failed the Bechdel Test but whose sole named female character, Mako Mori, had a strong, well-developed character arc. The test is fairly subjective as it lacks clear criteria for what constitutes “supporting” a man’s story, so we use a combination of parameters to judge arcs. More so than the Bechdel Test, the Mako Mori Test can’t be uniformly applied because everyone interprets characters and storylines differently. Therefore, we try to rely on two questions to determine whether something passes: first, whether the character in question has a unique perspective that viewers can identify or empathize with, and second, whether the story would still make sense if the woman were replaced by a Post-It note containing information (meaning, her role is primarily to add intrigue or complications to someone else’s story). We also tend to differentiate between whether the arc that passes the Mako Mori Test is an a-story (main story) or b-story (side story).
We do not purport to be the authority on these tests any more than we believe they are comprehensive tests of whether an episode of television is sexist. They just serve as a comparative tool and the only widely-known criteria for judgment. They also should not be hard to pass. “Gravity” tends to be used as an example of a movie with a well-developed female character not dependent on a man, but which would fail the Bechdel Test since Sandra Bullock is, you know, alone in space. But most movies and episodes of television aren’t “Gravity.”
Anyway, on to the recap! This isn’t a comprehensive list of shows that aired this week, just a recap of those we watched and tested.
For the week of Monday, October 5 – Sunday, October 11:
Grandfathered: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori (b-story)
Note: Improvement on previous week which failed both tests
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Fails Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
Arrow: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori (b-story)
Criminal Minds: Fails Bechdel, Fails Mako Mori
Note: Down from previous week which failed Bechdel but passed Mako Mori (b-story)
Code Black: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
Note: Holds steady from previous week
You’re the Worst: Passes Bechdel (no determination on Mako Mori)
Grey’s Anatomy: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori (b-story)
Scandal: Passes Bechdel, Fails Mako Mori
How to Get Away with Murder: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
Once Upon a Time: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Fails Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
The Good Wife: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
The Affair: Passes Bechdel, Passes Mako Mori
Happy viewing, everyone – fingers crossed that those fails improve this coming week and that the passes hold steady.
If you want us to test a certain show this week or you want to test a show yourself and have questions about the criteria, tweet us @telefeminism. If you do test a show and want us to tweet it out/retweet it, please DM us so that we can verify it. It’s not that we don’t trust you, we just like to make sure we apply the criteria consistently.
Oh – and a big shout out to some fantastic women who we got to see performing some killer comedy this week: Paget Brewster, Janet Varney, Callie Thorne, Jenna Stern, Jenn Lublin, and Jean Grae. We thought the guys were funny, too, for the record.
Thanks to our contributing members for watching and tracking shows.