Let me introduce The Douche Test! It is a gender portrayal test for movies, to use alongside The Bechdel Test. The steps are simple, just ask yourself:
1) Does the male lead character not threaten, objectify, make fun of, or in any other way mistreat a woman during the movie?
2) Does the lead character realize he mistreats women?
3) Does he change radically and ask for forgiveness?
If the answer is, “No”, to one or more of these questions, the movie doesn’t pass The Douche Test, and the audience should be aware of how men are portrayed. The Douche Test will help us see that a movie really doesn’t give a fair picture of men, similar to how The Bechdel Test warns us that a movie contains unrealistic portrayals of women.
I came up with this, after recently viewing three movies that failed The Douche Test and reminded me how necessary it is to be attentive of the portrayal of men we see on-screen.
That Awkward Moment gives us a freaked out version of Zac Efron because he thinks he just slept with a prostitute, or a “hipster hooker” as he and his friends so charmingly put it. She turns out to be just a regular hipster. The rest of the movie is about him and his friends’ “commitmentphobia”, which includes lying to women and treating them like objects.
In Labor Day Kate Winslet plays a deeply depressed single mom, who is in obvious need of professional help and support. Instead, she ends up with a criminal threatening his way into her house. He ties her to a chair, threatens her and her son, and never really smiles. Still the movie is described as “a romance to root for”.
The third movie I saw was Dallas Buyers Club. When the protagonist, McConaughey, is diagnosed with HIV, he drowns his sorrows at a strip club. Later he sleeps with the only woman with HIV in the movie, moments after her introduction. Because you know, a woman with HIV’s value is only that she can sleep with a man who has HIV.
I don’t deny that the douchebag exists in real life, but when the douchebag gets the lead role, and on top of that is portrayed in a way that the audience is supposed to sympathize with, forgive, and love, it reinforces that being a douche is acceptable.
If we are as critical about male portrayal in movies as we are about images of women, we can spot and be aware of media that will affect our brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.
Let us encourage writers, directors, and producer to give us movies that pass The Doucebag Test. Give us the warm, loving, gentle, and smart male characters we deserve!
Siri Nybakk is a Norwegian journalist currently working on her master’s degree at University of San Francisco. Her thesis is about how organizations and activism can spark a change to how women are portrayed in the media. As a feminist she is especially passionate about how female sexuality is represented and the awesomeness of Swedish feminist cartoons.