Wednesday, February 5, 2014

snow days, the daily do and the Bechdel test

Monday was truly a snowday - we woke up to a blanket so thick and silent. Well, except for the snowblower across the street and the scrape of the plow. No, I'm not complaining - our street must be the best cared-for street in the whole town from what I hear, and at this point, several weeks into the most serious winter anyone can remember, folks are serious about their snow removal.

This sign should read NO SCHOOL - EVER!!! They've been more closed than open.

So we enjoyed it.  We suited up and shoveled.  We saw more neighbors than we have since summer, out battling snow. It was lovely! Eliza was off on a last sleepover with Esme, so Dan and Ani and I walked uptown for coffee and hot chocolate and returned for legos, stories, cards...

The rest of the week has been equally weather-obsessed.  Freezing rain? Yes.  Ice? Yes.  Sudden melting and possibility of flooding? Yes.  We did make it to the homeschool coop for the second time this season, which helped with the cabin fever.  The classes the girls are taking are great: the History of Salt and Sugar, Basic Physics and World Geography for Ani, Storybook Art and a Dungeons and Dragons game/class based on the world of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe for Eliza, where she plays a knight.  It was the right amount of busy, but we come home zonkered.

Today we got to some reading about Ancient India and watched a bit of the PBS/BBC production of The Story of India which is a bit goofy but held the girls enthralled with beautiful images and explanations of the migration of people in the earliest days of the Indus civilizations.  

And...that's about it.  Oh yes, more legos, some french conversation with Eliza, listening to Polly Horvath's Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detective, some cards with Dan when he came home between classes and rehearsal, and a slow descent into bedtime reading (Ramona the Brave for Ani; Pretties for Eliza). 

Oh there was also a detour for Scooby-Doo, which my kids have decided is the best thing ever.  "What do you like about it?" "It's so funny! and we love the mysteries!"  Having tried the old 1970's Hardy Boys T.V. show on Netflix one desperate family movie night (it's really not very good.  Parker Stevens and Shaun Cassidy.) I wasn't quick-thinking enough to offer another alternative, but I did ask if we could quickly review the Bechdel test before watching an episode.  The Bechdel test or Bechdel rule looks at the presence of and relationship between women in a movie (or book, tv show, etc.).  Basically, to "pass" the test, a movie must have 1) two or more women in it who 2) talk directly to each other about 3) something other than men.  I had been feeling uneasy about the last episode I had overheard; it sure seems that Velma and Daphne's obsessions over Shaggy and Fred are over-the-top and while I get that the girls watch Scooby-Doo for fun and, you know, entertainment, I want them to be critical watchers and at least be smart about how they're taking it in. Ahem. Luckily they find this interesting, so we did a quick review and then started the episode.  Ok, we knew there would be two women - Velma and Daphne - and they definitely talk to each other.  Aaaand their first conversation was completely about boys.  Eliza threw me an "ew" look. Then the plot thickened and while they got wrapped up in pursuing a clue, Shaggy and Fred had a conversation about...the girls! Huh. Well, at least it's even.  (I wonder if there's a test for heterosexual world view?*) And...that was it! The rest was about, like, food, and you know, like, solving the mystery, and if it weren't for those meddling kids....(Now, of course, a movie can pass the test and still be totally sexist, but this is at least a good starting point for a more articulate conversation about the way women are portrayed in the media.)  

Before I leave the Bechdel test, Wikipedia had this quote from Virginia Woolf about gender portrayal in literature that I really like:

"All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple.... And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends... They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that..."


*Aha! There is! It's called the Russo test for LGBT representation in movies:
  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  2. The character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.
In which case, Scooby-Doo totally failed.  Something more to talk about...


Stacy @ Sweet Sky said...

Orlando and I have been having more and more conversations about representations of women/girls in movies, TV shows, video games, books. Mostly prompted by him asking, "Why are there never any girl robbers?" "Why does the princess just stand there?"

I had a fantasy-moment, wishing that I could create some gender-queer app that would let you switch out the gender/sex of the characters, as well as the relationships between them. Doesn't always have to be romantic, or heterosexual, or misogynistic! It would be so awesome! Mothers and daughters could be the main protagonists, or two boys, or sisters, or friends.... etc etc.

I like the idea of introducing the Bechdel and Russo tests. Sadly, I can hardly think of anything that would pass the Russo test!

Kerry said...

There is always the danger of over-thinking these things, but these tests are really interesting. It's good to be a critical viewer.

merry said...

As much as I've come to hate winter, it sure is beautiful with the snow covering everything. Your snow looks wetter than ours has been this year. We probably have 2 feet on the ground, accumulated, and very, very cold out.

slim pickins said...

Kerry - yes, I was laughing at myself as I suggested reviewing the rules before they started watching - didn't actually think they'd go for it - but there have been moments of sitting down to watch something I liked as a kid (hardy boys) and being appalled at how lame it really is. It helps me to have a way to talk about it with my girls who are like - WAIT a minute, what is going on?! where are the girls??? There is plenty we watch (Harry Potter being a big one) that does not pass the test at all...

slim pickins said...
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