Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sexy Lamps! A Supplement to the Bechdel Test

Maybe a week ago, the kid came to me with something she had read on Tumblr, on a site (do they call them sites on Tumblr? Blogs?  I am Tumblr ignorant) called With Rowan Wands and Flower Crowns: the sexy lamp test.

Maya, who writes the Tumblr, says this:

So, there’s the Bechdel test.
I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.

(She apparently got it from Kelly Sue DeConnick)

And ever since the kid read it, we've been making ourselves ill with glee, as we replace one character after the next in movies and plays and books with sexy lamps:

Cosette (Les Mis): Definitely a sexy lamp! (In fairness, Marius is also a sexy lamp.)

Ophelia: A sexy lamp!

Ripley: Definitely not a sexy lamp

Desdemona: Totally a sexy lamp

Buffy?  Well, she acts...but OTOH she doesn't often make her own decisions.  Quasi-sexy lamp?

Bella Swan: SEXY LAMP (no shock here)

Daisy Buchanan (Gatsby): Totally sexy lamp.  I think Tom even turns her off and puts her away between scenes.

Nellie Forbush: (South Pacific) sexy lamp!

Jill Boardman (Stranger in a Strange Land): Sexy lamp, 110%

All of Tolkein's female characters (from what I hear, anyway -- I've never been able to make it more than 10 pages into any of his work): sexy lamps

You can play too!


Bardiac said...

Desdemona is NOT a sexy lamp! She woos Othello (all that "greedy ear" stuff isn't about a sexy lamp) and goes against her father's wishes, then goes along to war. No lamp her!

(Okay, she gets lampish later, but she takes a fair bit of initiative throughout.)

delagar said...

Heh. You know, Desdemona was one of the ones I hesitated on.

I think I made her a sexy lamp because I just hate her character so much. She's always struck me as a projection of what men think women should be like.

Anonymous said...

" She's always struck me as a projection of what men think women should be like."


delagar said...

Nicoleandmaggie -- ha!

And even before she's dead, she's like ooo Othello you're the bestest ever and I can't stop listening to you! Your stories about Your Exciting Life make me so hot!

(My life? Girls don't have lives, don't be silly! We're adjuncts to menz!)

Plus pure as the driven snow -- she wouldn't even *think* about looking at another guy.

And her reward? Slaughtered for being a whore. Because bitches can't be trusted, yo.

Anonymous said...

Moral: If you're going to be a Shakespearean heroine, dress as a guy.

Tree of Knowledge said...

If Buffy is a sexy lamp, then she needs to be a lethal sexy lamp with spikes and rotating saws and wheels.

But seriously, I think she's more than a lamp. She makes a lot of her own decisions after the first two seasons. (And there's a huge plot arc about negotiating one's power within a patriarchal structure that ultimately ends with her rejecting it--which she is only able to do because she's the chosen one, of course, but making that choice possible for all potential slayers becomes the big finale).

delagar said...

Tree, I halfway agree with you, and halfway don't.

There's a lot I like about the whole Buffy show. But OTOH, as in most of Whedon's work, the strong, tough woman always has some guy who owns her: who tells her how to act, who she follows and obeys. (Zoe has Mal, Buffy had Giles, Echo has a whole slew of men.)

OTOH, there's Willow. OTOH, look what happens to her. River, likewise. Plus, Dr. Horrible and Penny the ABSOLUTE Sexy Lamp.

I don't know. I keep TRYING to like Whedon.

Anonymous said...

If Bella Swan were a sexy lamp, she'd never have made it to Forks. She certainly wouldn't have ended up as actual vampire queen of the world. The entire Twilight saga isn't basically Bella: I want a thing* Everyone else: You don't really want the thing. *Bella gets the thing* Bella: Yup, I really did want it. Sure, the things she want are basically a) Edward, b) to become a vampire and c) her baby, but that's immaterial in this case. Replace her with a lamp and the plot doesn't work.

The Bechdel test works because it's simple, very minimal (incredibly easy to pass, therefore shocking that many don't), and as near objectivity as possible. This? You've got Buffy as "quasi-lamp". If that's the bar, don't talk to me. A lamp can't slay vampires. You say Desdemona is totally a lamp because you hate her character. Instead of revealing sexism, you've made it another tool to denigrate female characters, ignore what agency they do possess, and generally further misogyny. Well done!

delagar said...

Remind me, what's one thing that Bella actually does to further the plot in that book?

Because that's what "Girl = Sexy Lamp" means. It means your women characters don't act. They're decorative. They're accessories. Like lamps.

Bella's ability to be the perfect sexy lamp and her *desire* to be Edward's sexy lamp doesn't negate the fact that she is still a sexy lamp.

As for Buffy, well, I know Buffy is supposed to have agency. And I know Whedon thinks he's giving her some. But seriously, look how much time she spends being someone's girl friend, or someone's student, or someone's victim.

I'm sorry this upsets you. Women being treated as objects should upset you.