This Terrible ‘Fire Island’ Hot Take Suggests It’s Time To Rethink the Bechdel Test
My rule is that I only watch movies with Bowen Yang in them.
So far, 2022 has given us a lot of great new queer content, as the streaming giants have tried to step up their game on representation. One of the latest movies to come to Hulu (just in time for Pride), is Fire Island—a modern gay romcom take on Pride and Prejudice. The film’s primary cast is made up of mainly Asian queer people playing queer people. Instead of being excited about a mainstream movie providing a platform for a traditionally underrepresented group, we get a hot take from the school of white feminism that no one asked for.
On Twitter, @HannaRosin tells everyone Fire Island “gets an F- on the Bechdel test in a whole new way. Do we just ignore the drab lesbian stereotypes bc cute gay Asian boys?” (Rosin has since deleted and apologized for the tweet, shown below.)
First of all, how dare anyone call Ms. Margaret Cho “drab”? That woman has never been drab a day in her life, and no one should forget that. In our current world where Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise, we need more representation, like Cho—and the film’s other stars Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang.
Secondly, let’s talk about the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel-Wallace Test originated in a comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. In a particular strip, one woman tells another that she will only watch a movie if it passes three requirements: the movie has to have at least two women, they must talk to each other, and they must talk about something other than a man.
The entire point was to discuss the lack of queer female representation in fiction. We could easily extrapolate the meaning and apply it to other groups’ lack of representation in fiction (e.g. “gay Asian boys”). However, white feminist film discourse has made it their primary litmus test. White feminism has a long history of making arguments about inclusion or visibility only if specifically white women are included—from first-wave feminism and its blatant racism to second-wave feminism and its exclusion of queer women (and racism), to this modern idea that media is not valid unless it passes an arbitrary test.
Several acclaimed movies that brought fresh stories to Holywood do not pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, such as Moonlight and Slumdog Millionaire. Conversely, there are even more movies that pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, but don’t exactly hold up feminist ideals, like American Pie 2 and How to Marry a Millionaire. In no universe can you argue that American Pie 2 is more progressive and better for women than Moonlight or Fire Island.
The new film test should be: only see a movie if its story is told through the lens of literally anyone other than a white, straight, cisgender man. We have had most of our history and fiction told through their eyes. We should let everyone else tell their stories.
(featured image: Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]