There was a lot of discussion today over social media about the article from The Daily Dot about how a lot of people have problems with the limitations of the Bechdel test based on the fact that a film like Pacific Rim, with its incredible female character Mako Mori, fails it. Due to this, there are a lot of voices now calling for the creation of what has been dubbed “The Mako Mori Test.”
As a bit of background for anyone who didn’t read the article:
The Bechdel test is rather elegant. In this test, your movie must have:
1) Two named female characters
2) who talk to each other
3) about something other than a man.
If it doesn’t have all three items, then it fails. A shocking number of films fail this test, including Pacific Rim.
The Mako Mori Test was proposed by Twitter user @chaila, and is this:
The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story. I think this is about as indicative of “feminism” (that is, minimally indicative, a pretty low bar) as the Bechdel test. It is a pretty basic test for the representation of women, as is the Bechdel test. It does not make a movie automatically feminist.
Now, as @chaila (as reported by The Daily Dot) has proposed the test, it seems like a useful idea to be used in conjunction with the Bechdel test. Where my concern comes in is the way I felt a lot of people were talking about this on social media, which was essentially that The Mako Mori test could be a *replacement* for the Bechdel test. And that’s where I think things get pretty problematic.
For what it’s worth, I thought Pacific Rim was hugely fun, I’ve recommended it to a lot of people, and I freaking *loved* the strong representations of POC.
*However* — I think the Bechdel test remains a valid tool. Does Pacific Rim failing the Bechdel test mean that I’m not going to watch it? No. But it raises valid points, and ones that I don’t think we should start trying to argue away with the specific creation of a new test that the movie can pass.
Why? Look at that number at the beginning of the article — 56 actors in the end credits. 3 of them women.
Was one of them an awesome woman of color who kicked ten types of ass? Absolutely. Does that offer a complete pass to the fact that 94.6% of the cast was male? Fuck no.
Here’s why — you can keep the same casting for Yancy, Stacker Pentecost, Mako Mori, and even that father-son Jaeger team. There’s your primary cast, and you don’t have to make any changes.
Why not make that duo of scientists female? Why not make a few of those politicians who cut the funding for the Jaeger project female? Why not have a few of the technicians with speaking roles female? Instead of having the pilots of Crimson Typhoon be a set of male triplets, why not a set of female triplets? Or instead of having the Russians be husband and wife, why not have them be sisters? When the scientist ends up in the smugglers den, why weren’t some of those smugglers female? Why not have the smuggler kingpin be a woman? You know that scene where Yancy is totally kicking the ass of everyone in that long line of possible co-pilots? They’re all men. Why wasn’t it a mixed-gender selection of possible co-pilots? In that entire scene of the possible co-pilots, there is only one woman in the room — Mako Mori.
When you look at Pacific Rim, you see a world of men, with only the barest sprinkling of women. Look at the crowd scenes in this movie — the only time I saw an even mix of men and women was in the public shelter (where speaking female actor #3 appears, by the way). In every other part of this movie, it’s men.
Mako Mori is a fantastic character. But by being unusual by the fact of her gender, it also perpetuates the underlying suggestion that a woman being a part of this world is unusual, that somehow she is special — not just because of her abilities as a pilot or her ambitions to avenge her family or her relationship with her adoptive father — but because she has *overcome* her gender and is now under consideration to be a pilot. It perpetuates that notion that if there are places for women, they are few and tokenish, so women need to fight as hard as they can so that they’ll be considered for those one or two spots.
Also, I’m just going to say it — we see a grand total of two female Jaeger pilots. One is the wife of another Jaeger pilot (the Russians), and the other is the adoptive daughter of the guy who is in charge of the whole damn program. I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that the film doesn’t seem to just be saying that the male-female pilot ratio here is insanely off-kilter, but also that it’s going to take a big fucking bag of nepotism to make this thing happen.
The Avengers is another movie that I love, and it fails the Bechdel test. But I don’t think its fail is as absolute as Pacific Rim’s. Watch the scenes on the SHIELD airship bridge and count the number of female background actors who make up the crew. Now compare that to similar “bridge” scenes in the Jaeger headquarters.
Here’s a comic movie that passes the Bechdel test — Thor. Jane Foster talks with her assistant Darcy throughout the film, and Siv has a brief chat with Freya. Instead of talking about how the Bechdel test is useless and should be thrown away, maybe we should be asking why a test with such simple requirements was failed so utterly epicly by Pacific Rim when it would’ve been so extremely easy to pass it?
So what do you think about the Bechdel test, the Mako Mori test, or about Pacific Rim in general?
**NOTE: A chunk of this post was originally posted on Facebook, in response to Abhinav Jain’s posting of the Daily Dot article.