Alison Bechdel Has Amended the Bechdel Test Just for ‘Fire Island’

Alison Bechdel has spoken. The cartoonist has weighed in on a debate sparked by a rogue tweet from New York magazine audio editorial director Hanna Rosin that criticized the gay Hulu rom-com Fire Island for failing to pass the Bechdel Test—a litmus test that judges films on whether they feature at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

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“Okay, I just added a corollary to the Bechdel test,” Bechdel began her tweet. “Two men talking to each other about the female protagonist of an Alice Munro story in a screenplay structured on a Jane Austen novel = pass.” 

Bechdel felt the need to update her unscientific test after Fire Island trended for nearly two days straight seemingly in response to Rosin giving the film an “F-” on the Bechdel Test. “So @hulu #FireIslandMovie gets an F- on the Bechdel test in a whole new way,” wrote Rosin in a since-deleted tweet. “Do we just ignore the drab lesbian stereotypes bc cute gay Asian boys? Is this revenge for all those years of the gay boy best friend?”

Rosin’s tweet instantly ignited a firestorm of roasts and memes on the social media platform, as users took issue with both her application of the Bechdel Test to criticize a film explicitly about gay male romance—groundbreaking in its own right—and her use of the term “cute gay Asian boys” to seemingly describe a large swath of the film’s stars, including Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, and Joel Kim Booster. “I was having a conversation with myself and failed the bechdel test :(,” tweeted New York magazine senior writer E. Alex Jung. 

After deleting the tweet, Rosin issued an apology that included a screenshot of her original complaint. “I deleted a tweet that many of you rightly pointed out was offensive,” wrote Rosin in a three-tweet thread. “I’ve read your responses and I hear you. My tweet was careless and thoughtless. Truly. The movie was telling a story about queer AAPI men, whose experiences don’t show up enough in movies or anywhere else.” She went on, writing, “What I had to say was beside the point, not to mention a buzzkill on a fun summer movie. It’s a cliche but the fact that I didn’t see it coming means I have a lot to learn.”

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Bechdel—who is not a social scientist but a cartoonist whose graphic memoir about intergenerational queerness, Fun Home, was adapted into a Tony-winning musical—effectively ended the discourse with her tweet. So now all you need to pass the Bechdel Test is a film where two women talk about something other than a man or two men vigorously debate the content of a Nobel Prize–winning female author in a screenplay based on a Jane Austen novel. Seems easy enough. 

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