Movie theaters in Sweden have a new, unique approach to evaluate some of society's favorite films. Instead of rating films on the usual violence, profanity, or nudity, the Bechdel test, coined in 1985 by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, takes on a completely different metric - gender equality.
Many of today's popular films feature female characters who show strength in a number of ways: Katniss Everdeen shows a survivor's spirit and political charisma in The Hunger Games, Princess Leia brings valuable leadership and tactical war strategy to Star Wars, and our own Hermione Granger exhibits intellectual supremacy and fierce determination in Harry Potter.
Even so, by the Bechdel test's standards, most of these films fail to achieve an "A" rating, which requires that two female characters have a conversation "about something other than a man."
"The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test," said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm.
Tejle says that while films regularly feature memorable female characters, the audience often sees "a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them." But through the Bechdel Test, Tejle says, "the goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens."
Pause for a moment and think through those aforementioned movies. While there are perhaps examples of female characters conversing on topics other than men in the source material, such as the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, the film adaptations come up short in a number of ways. The consideration is certainly eye-opening.
Scandinavian TV station Viasat Film plans to show a day of programming that only includes those films that pass the test, such as The Hunger Games, The Iron Lady, and Savages.
From an objective standpoint, the Bechdel test could be a game-changer for the film industry, providing an evaluative tool for marking gender bias and the portrayal of women on screen. It also raises questions about the book-to-film adaptation process, concerning which scenes, conversations, and interactions get left out because a screenwriter may judge them to be less necessary.
The implementation of the test has already inspired a heated debate, bringing timeless films and gender studies into a single, focused arena. We want to know what you, as Harry Potter and general entertainment fans, think of the Bechdel test and its implications.
Do you think it is a useful test? Is it correct to say only one Potter film would receive an "A" rating? To which film might they be referring? What might this mean for future film adaptations?
Posted by Caleb on 11-08-2013 at 11:15 AM
The secret is out. J.K. Rowling has published another book, but this time right under our noses. MuggleNet reported last night that The Cuckoo’s Calling, written under the pseudonym ‘Robert Galbraith’, was in fact penned by the Harry Potter author herself. This news obviously comes as quite a surprise, and we have a few questions following this unparalleled announcement.
1) Why publish this book under a pseudonym but not The Casual Vacancy?
Back in September of 2012, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for “grown-ups” was published, to somewhat mixed reviews. This was accompanied by several appearances and interviews by J.K. Rowling where she discussed the book. But why not have used a pseudonym for that novel and release The Cuckoo’s Calling under her own name? Or use a pseudonym for both?
2) Could this start a trend for very well known authors?
J.K. Rowling can be considered something of a literary trendsetter, having set the trend for literacy in young people when Harry Potter was first published. In recent years, authors, and more so young adult authors, have come into the spotlight and have gained much more attention from the media and the general public than in the past. Could this bold move strike a craze among authors looking for a clean slate?
3) How will the fans respond to this?
While it is believed to be quite unanimous among J.K. Rowling fans that news of another book, Potter or not, is certainly good news, some may question the underhanded way that it was done. When a new J.K. Rowling book comes out, we look forward to the crowds of people waiting for their copy, the release parties, the huge displays, and the slew of media coverage that comes along with it. While there will no doubt be much excitement as people trickle into bookstores, looking for the couple of copies that sit among the “regular” books, it just is not the same.
Now it’s your turn! Let us know your thoughts on these questions and don’t be afraid to ask your own.
Regardless of the fashion under which The Cuckoo’s Call was published, J.K. Rowling must be commended solely on the fact that this was kept under wraps for three months. We very much look forward to reading this novel, and will keep everyone up to date on any related news.
Posted by Laura on 07-14-2013 at 3:40 PM
Last week, MuggleNet asked our Facebook fans which Harry Potter spell they would use the most. The votes are now in, and while some results were to be expected, others were, well, a bit worrisome.
Taking the top spot was Accio, with an astounding 44.87% of votes! Along with their votes, many people added that they would use the spell for reasons including finding lost items, avoiding driving or walking to get small items, and getting snacks without having to leave the couch. Seems fair.
In second place, with 5.24% of votes is the infamous killing curse, Avada Kedavra. Though we have faith in the community that, should by some miracle magic manifest itself in our lives, the world would not be faced with mass killings (most of which would tend to occur on Mondays at work, according to voter comments), placing first runner up might raise some eyebrows. In addition, the combined percentage of votes for the three Unforgivable Curses (Avada Kedavra, Crucio, and Imperio) was 10.58%, and each curse landed in the top fifteen.
Closely behind the curse that was used quite frequently by a certain Dark Lord, is the spell that is sometime considered Harry Potter’s “trademark”: Expelliarmus. At 4.59%, this percentage might be quite accurate, as Expelliarmus makes a great defensive spell against the killing curse. Of which apparently we would be seeing a fair bit.
In fourth was Lumos, with 4.06% of votes. Because who wants to carry around a flashlight AND a wand?
Fifth place could be up for discussion, as this may or may not qualify as a “spell”. 3.42% of voters would use Apparition most often, as this would not only erase travel time, but also travel costs. Let us know your thoughts as to whether this is technically a spell or, if not, what it should be categorized as.
These outcomes may point out the reason why we have not been bestowed with magic. If these results held true for wizards and witches, why do we not read about them using the summoning charm on every page? Are they naturally less violent than Muggles?
Share your thoughts on these findings. Are there any that you think are missing from the top five?
Posted by Laura on 06-02-2013 at 1:50 PM
Throughout the Harry Potter novels, there are numerous examples of discrimination and prejudice towards certain groups, and in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the inequality of one specific classification of beings is introduced: that of the werewolf.
Werewolves are considered extremely dangerous to humans when transformed, and the Ministry has taken numerous measures to attempt to “contain” affected individuals (i.e. Anti-werewolf legislation, Werewolf register). There is only one known treatment for lycanthropy - the Wolfsbane potion. This offers sufferers the option to transform, but retain their human mental faculties and hide away until they return to human form.
So shouldn’t the potion logically be required and supplied for all registered werewolves by the Ministry of Magic?
This concept may appear rather harsh, as it would essentially deprive those afflicted with Lycanthropy the freedom to transform as they please and act on their werewolf instincts, as opposed to remaining hidden during their transformation, but could potentially save many lives and minimize the number of Lycanthropic infections. On the anti-Wolfsbane end, one might prefer to transform both physically and mentally because they consider it “more natural”, or that they do not believe that they should be embarrassed by their condition, believing that other should accept their “imperfections” instead of imposing “solutions” to make them fit in with the norm.
While this opinion could be seen as an act of courage and bravery in most cases, when the illness in question could result in numerous fatalities and infections, perhaps this is actually somewhat ignorant and selfish. Many werewolves (while not transformed) would never intentionally harm a living being, and would be disgusted if they discovered that they had infected or murdered someone. Over the past few centuries, the magical community has certainly shown no mercy when it comes to passing laws regarding werewolves, so it would seem only natural for them to jump at the chance to enforce another law, this time one that has clear advantages.
So what could be the hold up? As noted in the series, the Wolfsbane potion is very difficult to make, with disastrous consequences if brewed incorrectly. Perhaps the Ministry is afraid of the repercussions that could result from a potion mishap. Although the ingredients for the potion are not specified (aside from wolfsbane), surely some of them are on the pricier side, and werewolves are known to be quite poor (as finding employment is often challenging), therefore they are likely unable to purchase the potion themselves. Does the Ministry have the financial resources to accommodate the growing werewolf population?
Do you think a law implementing the mandatory use of the Wolfsbane potion should be passed? Why do you think it has not until now? Let us know in the comments below!
Speaking of werewolves and a certain Professor Lupin, check out Alohomora! as they continue the global re-read of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Posted by Laura on 05-28-2013 at 2:45 PM
Since the statute was officially established in 1692, wizards and witches of the world have effectively separated themselves from Muggles. The law mandates that in each nation magic folk must not do anything to expose the existence of the Wizarding World, and unless you're like Wendelin the Weird who enjoys a good witch burning every now and then, this kind of safeguard seems highly intuitive.
But heck - now that humanity has come out of the Dark Ages and is more accepting by and large of social change, and Voldemort's finally gone, could it be time for the International Confederation of Wizards to remove the statute forever?
Here are five reasons why we think the world might be ready for a little more magic:
1) More nuts, sickles, and ooh la la the galleons!
The day Lord Voldemort was first defeated by Harry Potter in 1981 was, perhaps, one of the most bizarre days Muggles have ever had in recent history. There were owls everywhere and falling stars, but let's not forget the cloaks! Witches and wizards took the streets celebrating in vibrant colors like violet and emerald green.
Well, if the statute was lifted Muggles would be able to wear these colors, too! What's more it would become socially acceptable (and possibly cool) for students to wear Muggle brands when they go to school! Just think about it - the fashion industry would be just one of many businesses to prosper if the two worlds united, ultimately creating stronger economies for both.
2) Better law enforcement
It's true that the Ministry of Magic occasionally works with Muggle law enforcement to spread the word about magical convicts - think back to the Sirius Black days in '93 - but consider this: if the Auror office worked closely with Muggle policemen and women, who, if anyone, would be able to slip under that radar? Would Voldemort have been as powerful (and as damaging, frankly, against the Muggle community) had Muggles been better informed of the danger?
3) Intellectual renaissance
If the Muggle World and Wizarding World started working together you can bet a whole lot of education would happen on both sides. As far as we know from the canon, magic folk have had to magically improvise when it comes to manufacture (especially electrical) and architecture. Think of the advancements in science and mathematics students at Hogwarts could benefit from! On the other end, philosopher and scientist Muggles would learn a great deal about the nature of reality and existence through purely the study of magic.
4) More acceptance of Muggle-borns
In the books, it was terrible to read the scenes where Draco criticized Hermione for being a "Mud-Blood", and later we learned that this prejudice wasn't merely shared by the Malfoys, but a great portion of the Wizarding community obsessed with purity of magical blood.
But after the fall of Lord Voldemort and the all-out persecution of muggleborns he led, is it possible the sentiments within the magical community are ready to shift in the reverse direction? An embrace of Muggles would likely work to end this prejudice, and its possible that muggleborns would, instead of being reviled, be actually celebrated by both communities as bridges between the two cultures.
5) More living space
Because of the statute, witches and wizards have been forced to live their lives completely in secret. This sort of situation likely contributes to magical youths resenting Muggles and playing tricks on them on a regular basis. But if the law was dismantled magic folk would be able to live anywhere in the world and lead exactly the kind of magical lifestyle they would want to (within the legal parameters of their place of residence, or course).
In the process of writing these five reasons why the statute should be dropped this news writer has thought of several reasons why it should not be dropped! But what is your take? Should the statute of secrecy be removed, and what sort of issues might arise from removing it?
Could it spark, dare I say... a war?
Posted by on 05-26-2013 at 2:35 PM
As a writer, J.K. Rowling was always careful about her use of certain techniques when creating the Harry Potter series. She of course knew that the use of caps-lock in one's writing had the effect of making the reader think a character was SHOUTING AT THEM!
Sorry to blow up at you like that, but to show the point, Jo used all-caps sparingly to depict moments of extreme anger for her characters. Thing is - she's brilliant - so often times her characters are angry for more complex reasons than the obvious ones.
Take Severus Snape, arguably one of the most complex characters in the series.
In chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Snape steps forward from the Invisibility Cloak and confronts Sirius Black, Professor Lupin and the trio in the Shreiking Shack. He then proceeds to freak out about three times.
First, when Hermione ventures a question of the greasy-haired Potions master as she might have done if they were in class...
“Miss Granger, you are already facing suspension from this school,” Snape spat. “You, Potter, and Weasley are out-of-bounds, in the company of a convicted murderer and a werewolf. For once in your life, hold your tongue.”
“But if — if there was a mistake —”
“KEEP QUIET, YOU STUPID GIRL!” Snape shouted, looking suddenly quite deranged. “DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” A few sparks shot out of the end of his wand, which was still pointed at Black’s face. Hermione fell silent. (US Edition p. 359-360)
After this display, Harry's own frustration begins to build (and he goes caps-lock too!) but once he does, Snape responds right back with an anger we rarely see from him in the series:
“SILENCE! I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!” Snape shrieked, looking madder than ever. “Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he’d killed you! You’d have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black — now get out of the way, or I will make you. GET OUT OF THE WAY, POTTER!” (US Edition p. 361)
Given Snape's screaming of the words like "keep quiet" and "silence" maybe Snape just gets very irritated hearing the voices of children! In all seriousness though, what are the main reasons for Snape's rage in this scene? Is he frightened for Harry, Ron and Hermione's livelihoods because he believes they are in the presence of a real killer (Sirius)?, is he disgusted to simply be in the presence of two childhood bullies from the past, or is he particularly demented in this sequence because he believes he's finally come head to head with the chief betrayer of Lily Potter?
For more answers to this question, check out the Alohomora! podcast question of the week! And for further reading about Snape's anger we recommend this essay written by hpboy13.
Posted by on 05-25-2013 at 11:20 AM