The Dudeney Test: The Role of Men in Film
Since the controversy at the upcoming Oscars with regard to the pitiful representation of people of colour in the cinema there has been open dialogue about the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of the film industry, peaking at white male representation.
The DuVernay Test is proposed as a discussion start for assessing the representation of people of colour (the preferred US term and given the predominance of the United States in film production and promotion and its domination of the film world, the one I am using) in the Western first world; I applaud and support this fully. It sits well alongside The Bechdel Test which is a basic tool for assessing the representation of women in film. Both tests are flawed in that any basic list of rules will require further discussion to clarify the points being made, but both provide an invaluable method of first assessing and developing an understanding of the inequality of representation in film.
“But what about the men?” I hear the disjointed cries of MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) plaintively wailing across the ethernet. “Good point” says I, shocking them so much that they probably fainted in unison, then got up again deeply embarrassed and giving each other pats on the back to pretend it didn’t happen.
I was discussing with my friend James Dudeney, Brotherwife™ to my Sooterkin™ and I. (Brotherwife is derived from a Sci-Fi novel, and makes sense when you know the context). He raised the question of why there is no similar test for men and we agreed it would be a fantastic way of pointing out how the privilege endowed by patriarchy also limits the roles of men, and that this limitation is generally tied to the feminising and devaluing of character traits and/or roles which the genders are expected to conform to. Many an MRA bemoans the stereotyping of the male, which they are right to do, but they tend to blame the victim (women/girls and any intersectional identity a person may have) and attack the symptom, completely ignoring the reality of society and the root causes of the problem.
Men have no need to implement the Bechdel test; films are full of men talking to each other as they make up most of the cast. The DuVernay test will be applicable to men of colour, but not necessarily specific to the patriarchal representation of men. James created a short list that would be useful in addressing the issues specific to men in film. I tried, but it ended up being very, very long due to my inability to STeffU:
The Dudeney Test:
- Do the men in the film talk about anything other than women, sport, cars, or violence?
- Are all their relationships with women sexualised?
- Are they useless in domestic tasks?
- If they share their emotions, or display affection towards other men, are they treated in a derogatory manner, such as implications of femininity or homosexuality?
In and of themselves any of the above topics may not be a negative factor within the film; the context in which the topic is presented can change this, as can the conclusion of the film. I am also not a fan of censorship so would never say these things should not be said. However it is vital that such expressions are given context and do not form the dominant ideology within the film industry. At the moment, they are the mainstream context and are the mainstream ideology and that is damaging to all.
MRAs also, in and of themselves, are not necessary a ‘bad thing’. The website Men’s Rights Activism has recently ended its posting of original articles, but as you see they still promote articles which have intersectional equality at their heart.
Feminism is about ending patriarchal oppression and modern feminism is intersectional; sadly patriarchy itself has led to the majority of MRA sites being dominated by men wishing to maintain patriarchy and blaming feminism for the ills patriarchy creates. However we already have a word for an ideology trying to create equality for all genders; ‘Feminism’.
I believe The Dudeney Test should become a standard starting point to discussions of male representation in film. If MRAs want equality for the men who they erroneously and against all modern research they believe are the oppressed gender, and they claim they do, this test should be applied by them especially, but everyone as a creator and/or member of the audience.
I’m thinking of a list to do with disabilities too, if I can successfully edit myself to a decent length. One day, maybe, a combination of the tests mentioned could be used to try to get fairer representation of all people in the film industry. It matters, especially in family-oriented films. Children learn by example and I want the example to be fair and positive, for all.