How Fire Island passes the Bechdel test – by creating a new one

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How Fire Island passes the Bechdel test - by creating a new one

On Monday, in a now-deleted tweet, author Hanna Rosin criticized Hulu’s popular new movie Fire Island for so-called Bechdel test failure. Rosin wrote that the film “gets an F- on the Bechdel test in a whole new way. Are we just ignoring the drab lesbian stereotypes bc cute gay Asian boys? Is this revenge for all those gay boy best friend years?”

The next day, the tweet was gone and a whole series of new tweets appeared with an apology. Rosin wrote: “My tweet was carelessly and thoughtlessly. For real. The film told a story about queer AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] Men whose experiences don’t show up enough in movies or anywhere else… What I had to say was beside the point, let alone buzzkilling in a fun summer movie.

Written by its star, Joel Kim Booster, the “funny summer movie” in question focuses on the experiences of queer Asian men. It’s a rarity in Hollywood, where most stories are still told by and about straight people, especially cishet whites. When characters are queer, they are usually white. In 2019, GLAAD found that only 34% of queer characters were characters of color, with a small percentage remaining decreasingless than 42% the year before and 57% in 2017.

But Rosin’s tweet focused on the film’s lack of female characters, citing a long-standing measure of women’s roles in cinema: the Bechdel test. What is the Bechdel test and what does the namesake say about it?

RELATED: How ‘Fire Island’ brings the pride to ‘Pride & Prejudice’

The Bechdel Test is from the comic book Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, MacArthur Fellowship winner and author of the graphic memoir Fun Home, which was adapted into a 2015 Tony Award-winning musical. Bechdel and her friend Liz Wallace developed the test in 1985 (sometimes referred to as the Bechdel-Wallace test) when one character tells another that they will only go to a movie if it has two female characters who talk about something other than a man.

Easier said than done. In the comic, only “Alien” meets these requirements. Since 2013, the bechdeltest.com website has maintained a database of films that pass and films that fail miserably. According to the website, recent films failing three components of the Bechdel Test (two female characters talking to each other, not just about a man) include Ambulance, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and The Nordmann .”

Does “Fire Island” happen? Spring . . . A loose update of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” the Hulu film focuses on a found family of queer friends determined to spend one last wonderful summer on Fire Island, New York’s famed gay mecca. All friends are male except for one, Erin (Margaret Cho). Her role isn’t the biggest or most developed: Erin is older, without a partner, and losing her home. The only other woman in the film? A very small, very angry lesbian on a boat.

But the film is a showcase for queer Asian men and those specific experiences that are sorely lacking in popular fiction. Objecting to a missing story doesn’t take into account the other marginalized stories it brings to light. DR Medlen of The MarySue wrote, “Rather than rejoice in a mainstream film that provides a platform for a traditionally underrepresented group, we’re getting a hot take from the school of white feminism that no one asked for… White feminism has arguing a long story about inclusion or visibility only when specifically including white women.”

So the short answer is no, you can’t. But maybe it’s time for other, different measures. Justifiable criticism can be leveled at the film, including its portrayal Black queer characters. But as for the lack of women, it’s not about them. actor and producer EmersonCollins tweeted: “‘FI’ fails [the Bechdel test] rather intentional. . . gay Asian men are rarely/never that centered.”

And the answer could be simple: we need more films. As Rebecca Sun writes, “Stories about a historically excluded identity don’t have to be about anything all of them.” It is high time for more, different and diverse stories from and about different types of communities and underrepresented experiences.


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The definitive answer? From the test creator herself, Alison Bechdel, who tweeted, “Okay, me right now added a corollary on the Bechdel test: Two men converse about the female protagonist of an Alice Munro story in a screenplay based on a Jane Austen novel = Pass.” The film’s official Twitter feed expressed its excitement in a reaction worthy of a “Fire Island”.

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