I’ve been collecting screenwriting blogs for my Google Reader, and came across John August’s blog post about The Bechdel Test..

I already had some familiarity with the test (and its various criticisms), but for those still in the dark:

Anyway, I then made the mistake of reading the blog comments. I should know by now that reading comments on the internet is bad for my health and I end up wanting to smack someone.

The usual arguments came through: “more women should write then”, “but all women do is talk about men”, “women want to have discussions instead of fight”, “maybe men AND women just don’t want to see women talk”, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

I then read a persuasive argument from Overthinking It that Hollywood clearly had no idea what Strong Female Character meant, and that we could articulate it more clearly: Strong Character, Female.

Which led me to consider one of my favourite things: colourblind casting. For those unfamiliar, it is the casting of an actor without a predefined racial criterion. This is particularly interesting in period costume dramas, where one can argue that “realism” is sacrificed for diversity, and plays well in TV shows like Merlin, where Guinevere is mixed race and it doesn’t matter at all.

I then went on the consider gender-blind casting. I confess that my first thought was: that would never work. I then went on to think about my current pilot project and substituted characters with equivalents of their reverse genders. Sure, there may be difficulty with the nearing-retirement army colonel being a woman but the character wouldn’t really play any differently.

There was also an issue of chemistry and UST between various characters, but Torchwood has proven well enough that making your entire ensemble bisexual can work pretty well without making the whole thing about sexuality.

Therefore, while it may be true that women are different from men and that “representatives” of various ethnic, sexual and religious groups may be expected to act in certain ways, I call BS and say that people are people are people.

One of my filmy friends says that he imagines when I write, I have “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” playing in my head. I say I like Strong Characters, Female and Male. I wish other people did too.


  • When I was at university in the mid 90s, I took some drama modules. One memorable session involved us acting out scenes from Look Back in Anger using reverse gender. As a mature student (in my early 30s), my younger actors also took great delight in casting me as the youngest character in any performance – I remember playing the sulky teenager daughter to two 20-year-old actors! All great fun – and well worth remembering in our writing. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    • I really like to swap genders around as I’m planning a screenplay. I also try to examine the reasons why I’ve chosen genders – I’ve discovered a few hidden prejudices that I didn’t even realise I was carrying.

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