Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Bechdel Test and Bridesmaids

Here's the original comic for the Bechdel Test as penned by Alison Bechdel in 1985.

This joke has become very significant for any feminist movement come or gone since. It's a very good example of a joke that is more. And it's a fantastically scathing indictment of a male driven Hollywood. But it is still a joke and like most jokes, a bit broad to be taken too seriously. And I realize saying anything as a man in this area means taking a risk, but I'll try to make myself clear. The Bechdel rule is this: The movie must 1 have two women who 2 talk to each other about 3 something besides men. And to its credit, the rule has pointed out a massive lack of such a thing in the HISTORY of cinema.

I was unfortunate enough to have my first film Dreamer subjected to the Bechdel test by a friend who agreed it passed muster, only to be passed on to a critic at Feminist Blogspot who proceeded to tear it apart for it's machismo. It was a film about returning marines with post traumatic stress disorder who were not especially nice to the film's starlet. We made no bones about the fact that these were not perfect guys. And the film barely roots for them. Regardless, by standards like the Bechdel test, we were tossed aside by Feminist Blogspot for a movie we admittedly didn't make distinctly for women or about women. If that sounds cold, consider Bridesmaids, which did pretty well last year with a female cast who covered a broad range of topics in conversation but focused mostly on the bride and her best friend and their relationships. With men. Have a look at the film. Does it meet a reversed standard for the Bechdel test? Does it have 1 two men who 2 talk to each other about 3 something besides women?

It might, I didn't watch it that closely. But not a lot for sure. And that's okay. Because it's about WOMEN. And it was made for women. And a hell of a lot of men happened to enjoy it as well. And there should be more movies like this. And it deserves to be in no way criticized for failing this test.

Political correctness is the enemy of art. Most of this years Oscar nominees were shit for reasons completely outside the Bechdel test, but let's stay on course. The issue isn't that movies aren't being made for women. It's that they are being made by men who write what they know. The problem isn't a lack of consideration, it's a lack of women in pictures. There's a lot of speculation as to why only two women have ever won best director. The numbers don't lie. There simply aren't anywhere near as many. And the academy is overwhelmingly male.

Movies good and bad are made mostly by men who decided what they were going to do early in life and most of the good ones come from an era where it was a total boys club. The women who have flourished in such an environment deserve a standing ovation for doing so, especially considering no one ever told them they could be film makers and it was a decision they likely came to later in life and had to work a lot harder for.

So my risky male perspective on the Bechdel test is this: Support female film makers. Get off the big boy's backs because putting more girls in War Horse isn't going to make it not suck.

For your consideration, Phil Forsyth

Some favorites that more than meet the Bechdel test and are fantastic. Probably because they are written and/or directed by talented women:

WAITRESS written and directed by Adrienne Shelly
LOST IN TRANSLATION written and directed by Sofia Coppola [won best director]
JUNO written by Diablo Cody [won best original screenplay], directed by Jason Reitman

And some fantastic films by talented women that likely fail the Bechdel test.

TITUS directed by Julie Taymor
THE HURT LOCKER by Kathryn Bigelow [won best picture and best director]

And some great movies about women that probably all fail it:

Anything by Woody Allen
Anything adapted from Jane Austen

And what the hell some featuring men who do nothing but whine about women for two hours:

HIGH FIDELITY starring John Cusack
Anything by Woody Allen
Anything written by Charlie Kaufman

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Map Of Tasmania

Washboard/tin can

I've been very into an artist named Amanda Palmer lately, formerly of the Dresden Dolls. I highly recommend looking into her body of work. Today I felt like doing a demo for my new washboard and it occurred to me I knew most the lyrics to her fantastic song 'Map Of Tasmania'. Those offended by the human body turn back now.

and the watered down folky dude version...

Monday, May 30, 2011

How We Almost Died

Over the memorial day weekend in MI, a series of tornadoes struck my parents street as I happened to be visiting, all in the course of a few scary chaotic minutes. The power went out due to what we eventually discovered was a massive tree fallen on the power lines a few blocks down.

Once the winds stopped blowing so hard they were pulling apart the trees before my eyes, I exited my parents basement and went to the guestroom to take a nap but instead slept through the rest of the storm. I awoke early in the morning not realizing what had been happening while I slumbered. The power was still off. There were no lights visible anywhere in the black night. From inside I could just make out the treeline.

I decided to take a walk. Anticipating that the simple sounds of a few rousing birds and the early birds on the freeway adjacent, I took along my ipod and headphones. Blasting Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's album 'Take Them On, On Your Own', I walked the road to the highway where a few headlights twinkled in the distance under the remaining stars overhead in a now mostly clear sky that promptly turned purple, then blue, with an array of oranges and pinks in the transition.

It's difficult to describe the alien feeling of this world gone dark. The prehistoric mist that consumed everything at the early hour. Everything like in a ghost town. Nobody anywhere. Traffic light dead. The orange sliver of moon and passing tufts of clouds dissolving into sweeping brush strokes in this unbelievably vivid sky. On the ground, it was so dark, I didn't even realize the carnage around me.

When I got closer to town, I spotted the old movie theater I worked at as a teenager. Only it was behind me when I realized what building it was. The shell station was dark also. A few cars pull in as I wander the parking lot of what was once a popular strip mall, left vacant by the economy of flawed ideals, all but said theater. There is one building in this stretch with no markings or windows still lit by a generator. But why?

I continue walking until I come upon the street where my father works at a plant. The street lights are on here. Side by side are houses without power, kitchens lit by candles as people prepare for work, and their neighbors still in bed with their bushes lit from below by tiny spotlights at 6 am.

I keep walking and Elliot Smith's 'XO' comes on. It's lovely and fitting now that the sky is getting lighter and the world is less ominous. I can see now a lot of trees are down in town. It's impressive the effort made the night before after or possibly amidst the storm to clear the debris from the sidewalk so I could walk here at ungodly hours.

I come to a little park and take a rest. And it is as though the world has stopped. I walk again so I can feel like it continues.

I get to the center of town where I spent so much time a decade ago. Where I made films and took art lessons and shopped for books. In front of the old bookstore I find a bin with a sign. "Books outside are FREE'. I take one that looks interesting and keep walking toward the river and park.

Elvis Costello's immaculate "This Year's Model' comes on and I am inspired to run in my ghost town. A surreal moment ensues when I arrive at the river and it seems that ice is floating in it on a day that will reach 87 degrees. It is of course just foam. Later in my walk I find a beautiful spot where the actual three rivers come together to create this. I walk by the emu cage and say hello.

Upon my return course to Fiona Apple's 'Extraordinary Machine', I finally see the carnage. Enormous trees down everywhere. Crushing houses, cars... many completely uprooted from the soil. Behemoths. Electric lines leaning in that I had walked under, about to collapse. Many collapsed. Transformers on the ground, smashed to bits. A titanic totem leaning on a power cable ready to go. Smashed roofs. Glass on lawns. An apocalypse.

A fleet of trucks rolls in bearing men with large saws and hard hats.
And the world goes on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monsters In Love

I intend to continue this series with regular installments in various comic format. Enjoy at More cartoons are available at


Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Instruments: The Super Diddley Bow, Bodey Box, and Jojo

I've been making instruments at home from scraps and such. Questions? Design/otherwise, ask away.

Super Diddley Bow

Diddley Bow from Phil Forsyth on Vimeo.

Bodey Box and the Jojo

Bodey Box/Jojo demonstration from Phil Forsyth on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Once again, James took it upon himself to make a video. This time experimenting with stop motion animation. We did some brainstorming once he had some done already and I brought over my finger puppets and little clay people. The single for 'Chalifoux' can be downloaded for free at . enjoy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Modern Aggressor

Lone Gun Society in 2007 at Fireside Bowl [s. keenan bass]

In 2008 my band The Lone Gun Society [then lineup: Daniel Feldstein - Rachel Scienski - Ethan Adelsman - Josh Anderson - and Mark Franzen, who now plays guitar] released a four song album called Red Bricks and Green Houses that you can download for free here. It was produced by Daniel and recorded over a handful of days in his tiny studio apartment in Edgewater [Chicago] over the course of the winter. The song 'Modern Aggressor' is track two.

M Franzen 2007
My good friend and film making partner James Whelan recently took it upon himself to make this video for the song with salt jumping around on a cloth [?] placed over a subwoofer while the song played. The results are, to me, fascinating. More of my/our music videos can be found at

Thanks to Ashley Benes for the sweet ass shot above^