The Midseason Review: Fall 2015

Happy New Year from the Telefeminism Project! Our first big production is finally here: the midseason review. We’ve been tracking shows all through the fall (and binge-watched some back episodes over the holidays) and we are excited to bring you a recap of how some popular shows did in terms of female representation in the first half of the regular season (or for premium network shows, the whole season).

A few key points: first, these results should not be interpreted to mean a show is feminist or not feminist. Having women on a show doesn’t mean they’re being represented well, just that they are represented. But it’s a starting point, particularly since what qualifies as feminist is open to spirited, intelligent debate (as well as ridiculous, depressing debate, as demonstrated by every comments section on the Internet). That said, it’s hard to depict women in a positive way if they aren’t there.

Second, we’re introducing what we’ve named the “Knope Factor,” an homage, of course, to Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation – a character we see as a benchmark for modern depictions of women on television. We could gush about Leslie for hours, but that’s for another day. In the meantime, the Knope Factor – it’s a score we’ve developed that incorporates numeric, weighted scores for the Bechdel Test, the Mako Mori Test, and the “Inverse” Bechdel Test. For questions on how we determine a pass or fail on the Bechdel/Inverse Bechdel Test, see this post. For an explanation of the tests themselves, including Mako Mori, see this shiny happy infographic.

We’ve looked at whether we ought to relax our requirements for the Bechdel/IB tests, but in the end, we decided to stick with our criteria. There are three reasons for this: first, both tests have the same requirements, but the high rate at which shows pass the Inverse test demonstrates that it’s not an unreasonable standard. Second, the ability of some shows to pass the Bechdel test consistently, particularly ensemble shows with an even gender mix, demonstrates that it’s absolutely reasonable to expect a show to pass. Finally, loosening the standards leaves a lot of room for subjectivity, and when it comes to data recorded by multiple people, that invites errors.

There is no consistent criteria for passing the Bechdel Test, which is why our results may differ from observations made by others.

Finally, a word on the “Inverse” Bechdel Test: it is commonly referred to as the “Reverse” Bechdel Test, but in our view, from both a lexicological and mathematical standpoint, reverse would imply that we are applying the rule backwards, which would look like this:

  • other than a man
  • talk about something
  • at least two women.

Inverse, however, implies an opposite or contrary effect, which better describes what we’re trying to measure:

  • at least two men
  • talk about something
  • other than a woman.

Why is this important? It’s probably not. But we’re nerds. Huge nerds. So we care.

Now, without further ado, the Midseason Review.

Untitled Infographic(1)Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. You should be able to drag, drop, and upload, but please leave the bit that credits us, as well as Piktochart since it’s a free tool, and link back to this post and/or our Twitter handle. You should absolutely feel free to discuss what the results mean in your view (and tell us on Twitter, unless you’re a troll, in which case, wow you’re determined because this was a long post). We have our own conclusions, but we’re going to hold off on those until the end of the season, because a bigger sample size of episodes will guarantee more accurate results. Also, Santa did not bring the super nerd software we asked for, and we really want to incorporate some more data into our conclusions. We’re trying very hard to bore the entire Internet to tears.


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