The ‘Bechdel Rule’

Posted on September 5, 2008 at 6:00 am

Neda Ulaby’s column on NPR starts with a rule established by Alison Bechdel, author of one of my favorite books, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In Bechdel’s comic strip, a character said she’d only go to see a movie if it had:

1. At least two female characters, who …
2. talk to each other about…
3. something besides a man.

Ulaby quotes Eric Deggans, who covers television for the St. Petersburg Times. He
says it comes down to who’s writing the scripts: There’s not a lot of diversity among successful TV writers. As a result, Deggans says, there aren’t a lot of fully realized African American characters, and not many conversations between women on a convincing range of topics. He notes that shows like “Sex in the City” fail to meet that test. But she recommends one, “The Middleman” on ABC Family that qualifies. I’ll have to check it out. I think “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” qualifies, too. Ulaby asked Deggans and “The Middleman’s” Natalie Morales for their variations on the Bechdel rule.
The Deggans Rule
(from Eric Deggans, The St. Petersburg Times)
1. At least two nonwhite characters in the main cast …
2. in a show that’s not about race.
The Morales Rule (from Natalie Morales, ABC Family’s The Middleman)
1. Nobody calls anybody Papi.
2. No dancing to salsa music.
3. No gratuitous Spanish.

Check out the comments on the rules, which include more variations and recommendations.

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