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Culture

Rating Jewish Filmmakers’ Portrayal of Women

Does your film have two women in it? Do they have names? Do they talk to each other? About things other than men?

These are the questions, the only questions, of the Bechdel Test, otherwise known as the Mo Movie Measure. Like the APGAR test, it’s a flawed system. But in the same way that the APGAR is a pretty good gauge of the health of a newborn, the Bechdel Test is a pretty reliable, though by no means infallible, gauge of how seriously a film takes women.

While most comments about Jewish control of the media are clearly paranoid, there are a number of important Jewish filmmakers — almost exclusively male — in Hollywood and their portrayals of women are influential. But the films that these nice (and, presumably, some not-so-nice) Jewish boys are making all too often fail the test, perhaps to the detriment of their real and virtual communities.

The Bechdel Test Movie List is not a comprehensive list, nor does it divide up according to directors’ ethnicity. A cursory glance though, reveals that Hebrews just aren’t respecting Shebrews or any representatives of the XX chromosome pairing. Perhaps obviously, “Borat” and “Bruno,” starring Sacha Baron Cohen, in addition to any number of Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow projects, fail the test, but so do Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and “Jaws.” But Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” and “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner got a pass.

So what to do? Well, clearly this isn’t simply a condemnation of those filmmakers but there’s a systematic problem and if people who are in the system don’t change it, who will? For an introduction to the test and a preliminary list of films that fail it, watch the video below.

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