Yesterday, I blogged about the Jane test. I was torn, to say the least. I agree with Ross Putnam’s contentions (and it would be impossible to argue with the horrendous examples), but I also think the issue cannot be simplified into Three Simple Rules.
For those new to my blog, or don’t know what the Jane test is, you can read the previous post on the Jane test here. The short version is this: Putnam contends your screenplay is sexist if when you introduce your female characters, you can answer “YES” to at least one of these three simple questions: 1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character? 2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething? 3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?
So being torn, I read this article on the Jane test.
As I reported yesterday, I’m not entirely convinced these three questions are so simple.
Then I wondered , what if my viewpoint of this viewpoint was tainted by MY gender. Possible I suppose, even for an enlightened feminist such as myself.
So I asked a fellow screenwriter (Yikes! I just used the sexist word “fellow” in her introduction), and female Brit, Tracy Shefras, for her take on the issue. Tracy wrote:
The Jane Test is concerned with is there actually anything in the character description that hints at the substance of the woman, highlighting what it might be that makes her tick, worthy of some screen time. Underneath the gloss and female beauty surely it is possible to extract, and display, a new kind of essence. The old favourite aesthetic image is no longer of any consequence. Writers have to do better.
The Test suggests there are three obvious pitfalls that undermine the female character. If a writer can find a way to describe the character, and avoid the pitfalls, then they will be well on the way to writing a compelling character. A character that is not defined by the length of her legs, the age bracket she falls into, nor the fact that she is hooked up to an older man.
There have got to be ways to take the sexism out of description. Ways in which the inherent qualities of the female character leave potential readers and viewers with a reformed, and informed opinion that equality does exist.
Well, obviously, Tracy agrees there is a problem — as do I. I’m just not certain running a screenplay by the Three Simple Rules constitutes an adequate test/solution.