5 Board Games to jump right into!

We always say that we would love to do more with our families, do something that doesn’t involve screens and electronics. We say we should sit and chat, or maybe even play board games. Oh yeah! It’s been AGES since any of us played a board game, let’s set that up for this weekend. Great. But what game?

And right at that point the age old argument ensues, usually ending the ill-fated evening before it even begun. Common suggestions will include “Game of Life”, “Scrabble” and “Monopoly”. Some ambitious soul might even recommend “Risk” or some never before heard of German game with 20,000 pieces and a handbook thicker than the last Harry Potter!!!

However, while being drastically different (yet classic) games (with the exception of that obscure German title), the one thing all those games seem to have in common is that while everyone knows “of” them, no one seems to have really mastered any of them (except your geezer of a brother, who wins at Monopoly every single god damned time and would have been better named Ebenezer…), and thus one of two things happens: either, no one can agree on a game to play in the first place or the choice leaves experienced board game players bored and newbies lost, which is never a good way to spend a family evening.

My husband and I had exactly such a lofty thought about a year ago. Wouldn’t it be nice, to play some more board games? As avid gamers (usually of the electronic variety) we both wanted to spend some real quality time together, being present with one another as well as family and friends without screens and plug ins, so we started our very own quest in search of the most awesome board games to share.

On our adventure, we came across some real duds (as was to be expected), but also some genuine gems and we now have a collection that caters to all levels; from weathered-by-adventure board game experts to green-eared-never-rolled-a-dice-newbies.

The trick, is to find games to start everyone off with; games that will allow new players to pick up on the rules easily and play confidently, while being challenging and/or entertaining enough so that gaming veterans don’t get bored.

We think we’ve found at least 5 of these and I would like to introduce you to them now. They are pretty straight forward, and mostly “pick up and play”. If you’re looking for something that your geezer of a brother won’t instantly beat you at, but is also easy enough to introduce to that reclusive, eclectic family member, I hope this will be the list for you.

Just to be clear, I am not recommending blindly; I have played each and every one of these multiple times myself, with a variety of friends and family members. Very importantly there are no endorsements at play here, this is my personal list of recommended “beginner friendly” titles. Clear? Good. 🙂

Let’s get tucked in!

1) Labyrinth

An easy to set up and even easier to follow game, first released in 1986. The simple objective is to be the first player to find all their treasures in a treasure hunt; each player gets a deck of cards, where each card depicts a treasure which has a corresponding tile in the maze. To obtain the treasure, players have to manoeuvre their character pieces through the moving labyrinth.

Players locate their treasure on the board (without letting the others know what they’re looking for) and then plot the path their character piece must take to get to it. There are no dice and no maximum spaces one is allowed to move, however, players will most certainly find their path blocked by walls!

Why? Because the board moves! At the beginning of each player’s turn, they must “move the labyrinth”. In doing this, they will start freeing up the path to their own treasure while inadvertently (or maybe deliberately) blocking the paths of other players. 😉 To claim the treasure, players must simply reveal their treasure card once their token stands upon the corresponding tile.

The first to reach all their treasures wins!

Labyrinth

Statistics:

2-4 players  Ages: 7+  Average Time: 20-40 minutes

2) Greedy Greedy Goblins

Another “pick up and play” game, the 2016 title Greedy Greedy Goblins pitches players against each other as members of their own Goblin mining guilds. Each guild has a preferred gem for bonuses, but what’s most important (and exciting) about this game is that there are no turns!

Cards depicting the Mines (and the guild hall) are laid out in a circle on the table, and in the middle are all the face down “mining tiles”. On the count of three, each player rushes to pick up and inspect one tile at a time. As soon as they have seen what the tile contains (a gem, a minion, a torch, a monster or a stick of dynamite) they must place the tile (face down) on any one of the mines. At any point players may then place their own coloured tokens on a mine to “claim it as their own” and once that has happened, no one else may place any more tiles on that mine.

Once all  the mines have been claimed, players take informal turns revealing what their mines include. This is the risky part, since while players will know what they placed in the mine themselves, they have no idea what other players may have placed there!!! Gems give points, minions are helpers who get even more points (or mitigate damage), monsters rob you of your points and while single/double sticks of dynamite double your yield, too many (more than three) collapse the whole thing and that player pays a penalty.

It’s fast paced, laugh out loud adventure, where players have to choose whether to risk it all with an over-tiled mine or play it safe, with a mine that only contains 2 gems that they placed there themselves.

GGG

Statistics:

2-4 players, Ages: 14+ (that’s what the box says but I don’t see any reason why anyone 10+ couldn’t play this on their own, and I would even go as far as saying that 4+ could have an amazing time playing this with their family, as long as everyone plays with the understanding that the little kids are in teams with adults and the game is slowed down to allow them to make choices too!) Average time: 25-35 minutes

3) Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan, which was first released in 1995, is more in the vein of “classic board games” than the previous two, but it’s beautifully designed, easy to pick up and a lovely challenge!

As the name suggests, players play settlers in the fictional country of Catan. Each player starts with a pre-determined number of natural and refined resources, and as the game progresses they need to acquire and trade for even more resources, as these are needed to literally settle their areas. They need to grow wheat in fields, get lumber from forests and hay from grasslands, for example, to build cities and roads and eventually even connect to water based trade routes. Each settlement, road and structure is worth a certain number of points, and the first player to reach (typically) 10 points, wins.

This game is about strategic placements, trades and moves, while also making moral choices. You could send the robber to plunder other player’s settlements to get you ahead temporarily, but is it worth the possible retribution?

soc

Statistics:

3-4 players (standard) (2,5 or 6 players with expansion packs), ages 8+ Average time: 1 – 4 hours. (Personally, we have averaged out at 1.5 hours per session).

There are also some fun variations and expansions on the classic game, such as Catan Junior, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians.

4) Scotland Yard or NY Chase

The 1983 title Scotland Yard, pitches a team of up to 5 players (the detectives) against a single common enemy: Mr. X, played by a single player. The detectives of the London Metropolitan Police work together to track down Mr. X as he escapes across London.

The catch? Mr. X only appears on the board every couple of rounds and the player playing him has to write down his progress on a secret board for verification later. Mr. X and the police must use tickets for the Taxi, Bus and Underground routes to get around London and the detectives work cooperatively to do this with as much strategy as they can. Their only clue? What tickets Mr. X has been using. Taxis only move from one point to the next, bus stops might be several “spaces” apart, whereas the Underground can take him the furthest, along the predetermined routes.

Mr. X gets to also use a limited number of “secret tickets” which allows him to use any mode of transport he wants, or even take a boat along the river Thames. If the detectives manage to catch Mr. X before the turns run out, they win the game, but if he makes it through all of his turns without getting caught, he “gets away” and he wins.

NY Chase, is a variation on this game, which I am personally very fond of. It moved the chase to New York City, where the FBI are trying to catch Mr. X. The difference other than the location? The police get (limited but helpful) use of a helicopter and they have road blocks as well! I love this version, because I love playing Mr. X, and it makes it more challenging to escape!

NY Chase

Statistics: 

3-6 players (but I’ve also played it with 2 players, where one person was playing all the detectives at once!), Ages: 10+ , Average Time: 1 hour

5) Cranium

Last, but definitely not least, is the brain teaser Cranium. Designed to “challenge your whole brain” and including a variety of activities, this family fun favourite pitches teams of at least 2 against one another in a combination of challenges revolving around “creative activities”, “knowledge of data and facts”, “performing arts” and “spelling/word recognition”.

It’s an all around crowd pleaser, combining aspects of classic party games such as Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Name that Tune and more. It’s the perfect activity for a group of people who can’t decide what to play, since there’s a little something for everyone!

Cranium

Statistis:

4+ players, Age: 8+, Average time: >35 minutes.

_______________________________________________________________

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little list, and really hope you’ve found something that caught your eye. Maybe one of these will liven up your next dinner evening. 😉

Have you played any of these? Or are you planning to? I would love to know what you think! Please let me know, in the comments below.

Bye bye for now! x

Advertisements

I’m sorry that you stole my bike – #ThoughtfulThursday

This evening I met with a constable from the Belfast Harbour Police; he took my statement regarding an incident in late April when 3 young teenagers made off with the Belfast Bike that I had returned to a station in Titanic Quarter.

I had returned the bike according to protocol, reported the incident immediately to the company and the police, and because of that I was not going to be held liable for the lost bike. Yay.

A few days later, the bike was found, badly battered and beaten (missing the light, handle covers and bell, with cut wires, slashed tires, and dents) but the case seemed closed; now they just wanted my official statement for the record.

However, those boys were never caught and that’s what makes me feel awful.

No, I don’t want to see them “punished”, I want to take this chance to apologize to them.

Children and youth are not inherently bad. I was just one myself, less than a decade ago, and I know that they’re (mostly) actually quite alright; but they struggle with impulse control – they see a tall ledge and feel the need to jump. They see a loose sign and just have to hit or kick it. Someone offers them a swig of a drink they shouldn’t have? Sure, why not.

Most teenagers don’t go looking for trouble, trouble finds them and I inadvertently presented their ids with a challenge to juicy to pass up – a chance at a cheeky joy ride.

As I said, it wasn’t my fault that the bike didn’t lock properly, but they watched me struggle to get it to lock properly in the first place, and as soon as I stepped away they tried to yank it back out.

I am sorry that you were tempted to do this and I am even more sorry that you got away with it. Because you got away with it, you will not have learned how much stress this caused me, or just how much it would have cost me (a total stranger to you) to replace the bike if they had held me liable (£250 btw) and you didn’t learn what  the consequence for stealing is to you personally… You had a jolly joy ride, feeling like the macho men society pressures you to be, like Rebels and cool dudes.

But what scares me the most is that, just like any “gateway”, if you’re unlucky, this might lead you to worse crimes – because that is what that was – a crime.

Next time, you might try to knick something off of someone way more dangerous than me and get hurt by them, or worse, it might be someone weaker than me and you hurt them in the process!

Will it stop at a bicycle? Or will it be a moped? Maybe a motorbike? What about a car?

That’s what keeps me up at night. Worrying about where you are and whether my not stopping you quick enough, my hesitation to chase you and scare you out of what you were doing, might have allowed you to slip onto this very dangerous path.

I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m over exaggerating and I really hope that you were just excited because it was a warm spring day, that you got your fill from it and that you’ll never do it again.

But if my worst fears are true, and this this leads to worse things (that I will probably never know about) – I am truly and deeply sorry that you weren’t caught that day, and that we, as a society, may have missed our chance to teach you all a lesson, and maybe help you become better people.

#ThoughtfulThursday

Discrimination is always discrimination.

Discrimination, by definition, “is the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit.”

Discrimination can be made on anything from race and gender to more subtle things such as whether someone has piercings or tattoos, what their hair colour is, or what brand of technology they prefer.

Some of the most visible/talked about and systemic types of discrimination are:

And there are many more…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination

However, I have come to notice something quite disturbing and I wanted to take a moment to ponder this.

As a caucasian, mid 20’s, employed, (seemingly) cis-gendered/sexual individual, it seems that if and when any of these are applied to myself, people tell me that it’s not “really” discrimination at all and that I am to “check my privilege” and shut up. Trust me when I say my brothers, as males, can fare even worse.)

(Yes, I am aware of the fact that in comparison to many many other people on the planet, I have lead a very privileged life, and I know that I am lucky. No, I have not ever been denied a job, an education  or even a table at a restaurant based upon the colour of my skin, a perceived religion or sexual orientation and, while I am capable of great empathy, I would never claim to even begin to truly understand what people who have faced and are facing this sort of struggle, have truly been though.)

However, I have experienced (personally and through friends) clear cases of discrimination that I thought were unfair and yet, we have been told that it’s “not really discrimination at all” for one reason or another. (6 examples below.)

  1. A friend got publicly called a “dirty racist” because he couldn’t offer service in a language he didn’t speak and when he tried to defend himself, he also got the sexist card, because he’s a man. He’s a caucasian, anglophone and was told to “suck it up” once it was over. (This is linguistic discrimination, often considered a subset of racism, paired with misandry/sexism.) 
  2. Someone very close to me got called names like “halfie” and “twinky” by the ethnic student body with whom they identified, in their high school, because they are “only” half of that culture but also have the “privilege” of being half white. They were expected to take it on the chin, and to not be “so uptight” about it. (This is racism.) 
  3. I married my husband at age 23. Permanently we get asked “Aren’t you too young to be married?” and “What if you made a mistake?”. When we have, in such cases, refused to be forced into defending our life choices, we have been told to respect the knowledge of our elders and accept that we’re wrong (even when these are complete strangers!). (This is ageism.)
  4. Another person who is very close to me, passed all the required exams, physical tests and qualifications for their dream job, but were turned away because the company had taken “their quota” of their religion for that year. It was considered “normal” due to the divide among varying Christian factions at the time and since this person is white, and Christian and thus “privileged”, they were expected to just wait another year. (This is religious discrimination.) 
  5. I am half Irish, half German; this makes me very pale. When I go to the beach, it seems to be unavoidable for both people I know, and complete strangers to exclaim thing like “Oh my god, you’re so white, you’d get lost in a sandbank!”. This is then usually followed up with unsolicited advice on how to best protect my skin and that I “best go back inside”. When I protest to this type of conversation, I am told that “I don’t really know what racism is”, and that I need to learn to “take a joke”. (Like it or not, this is racism.) 
  6. When I went to my new doctor for a routine check up, I was told that I may have diabetes, fatty liver or even heart disease. The diagnostic tool? A BMI calculator and looking at me, because according to her “in 99% of cases, any problem a ‘fat’ person has, comes from being fat and lazy, and nothing else.” The blood tests that she ordered, all came back clean, other than being heavy I am perfectly healthy and yet, she was not expected to apologize and my malpractice complaint was thrown out even by my circle of peers before it ever made it to an official office. “She was just doing her job”. (This is “body-shaming”, a very prominent sub set of ableism.)

I am very very tired of all these double standards.

  • Discriminating on skin colour? No matter the colour, it’s racism.
  • Discrimination on gender/sex/sexual orientation? No matter the identification, it’s sexism.
  • Discriminating on age/experience? No matter whether old or young, it’s ageism.
  • Discriminating on body type, shape or ability? No matter the body, it’s ableism.

Just because an individual does not come from a systemically oppressed or marginalized group, does not mean that it is impossible to discriminate against them individually.

Thanks for reading.

#ThoughtfulThursday

 

 

 

 

 

To blog or not to blog…

It’s interesting looking back over the posts I’ve written, especially considering that I still don’t fancy myself as much of a “blogger”.

There are recipes and reviews, angry rants and thoughtful reflections but most importantly, I have noticed that there are many “unfinished” projects.

I was off to an incredibly good start on “Around the world in 26 breakfasts” and thought I had a real crowd pleaser when I started “Disney Lessons”.

What strikes me though, is that when I think about those projects, rather than being excited and joyful about the fun things they would allow me to do (namely cooking some amazing international breakfasts and having an excuse to re-watch and totally over analyze my favourite Disney movies) they have become a source of stress.

I berate myself for not having “posted” in so long, fearful that any of the few regular readers that I have might lose interest in waiting and might stop following my blog all together.

There is so much I’d like to write about, such as our recent trip to London, my wonderful (and unfavourable) experiences with AerLingus, the kindness and understanding of Viking River Cruises, not to mention all of the great foods we’ve been cooking and so much more. But I’ve found that the pressure of writing things that other people will enjoy, and in a way that won’t get me judged, has scared me away from my computer all together. I ask myself “to blog or not to blog?” And more often than not I end up simply answering that question with a defeated “no”.

I’ve opened this page innumerable times, have started and deleted countless drafts… And then I look at those projects and feel guilty that I haven’t done anything with them, and put off writing anything new until I’ve continued those.

To you wonderful readers – I want to say:  thank you. Thank you so much for joining me on this blogging journey for these past 18-ish months, despite all the breaks and I promise, I will finish those series eventually. 😉

I hope you’ll forgive me, if unlike my more organized or even professional online peers, I admit that I don’t enjoy the stresses of scheduled posting and that I am choosing to not be doing this on a schedule.

I am enjoying life so much right now; cooking and traveling, work is going well, I’m making pretty great choices for my health and on the weekends we’re just relaxing.

I look forward to what 2016 has to bring and am open to any article suggestions you may have.,

Thanks again to everyone who checks back here every once in a while, I really appreciate it.

xoxo

10 ways to be more connected

According to the official German language dictionary Langescheid, the German “Youthword” of 2015 is “Smombie” ~ Smartphone Zombie.

This is interesting since my father and I have been having some interesting debates recently about the rise of disconnected-ness among people these days, brought on by the rise of “smart” (or web enabled) technology.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.09.11 PMNow, I am not blind and definitely do see the “zombification” of my own, as well as older and younger generations and I too am concerned, however, I genuinely believe that the technology itself is not to blame which is why I get so easily frustrated with this topic. I believe that the technology itself it’s wonderful (I wrote a whole poem about it), so let’s not dwell on that.

I don’t ignore my surroundings because they TAUGHT me that that would be rude. I am 25 years old (and married) and I still ASK before I put both of my headphones in on a lengthy family road trip, because they insisted on that when I was younger – and it stuck.

You know what else stuck? No phones at the dinner table. If mine was out it was gone… I was taught the art of making conversation and keeping eye contact. Also, when ever I had friends over, sure we were allowed to watch movies and play video games but eventually my parents physically turned the TV off and sent us playing outside or with toys. I am surrounded by the same tech as many others but I was raised right.

IMG_5998Maybe, today’s youth just aren’t being raised the same way but it’s also hard for parents to crack down on something that they themselves do all the time. The amount of adults I have seen who will blatantly text the whole way through a coffee date, permanently check their Facebook while visiting with friends or just can’t stop playing what ever the newest Facebook game is (Candy Crush, Farmville etc) while they’re supposed to be watching a movie together, is absolutely mind boggling to me.

The main point I am hoping to make is that I believe that bad habits, poor examples and lazy parenting have lead to our tragically disconnected state.

That being said, here are my top 10 tips to reconnect. You don’t have to try all of them, but I am hoping they will help. 😀

At home/personal space

  1. Enjoy the real world for at least an hour in the morning before you “plug in”. 
    1. Have a morning routine such as kissing your loved one(s), having coffee/breakfast, brushing your teeth and getting dressed ALL BEFORE checking your Facebook/Twitter etc. You may be surprised at how much more awake and aware you’ll feel if you day starts in the real world.
  2. Ban Phones/Tablets from the Breakfast/Dinner Table. 
    1. You could make it a game, there are plenty of suggestions for this on the web, or you could just all grow up and leave them well away.
  3. Introduce new hobbies/join a club. 
    1. IMG_3527A lot of the time we spend on Social Media is to fill the empty time in which we’re doing “nothing”. Having a hobby, be it knitting, sewing, puzzling, reading, scrapbooking, playing sports, learning a new language or just playing with the dog will give you something tangible to do, that you can enjoy on your own or even share with those around you.
  4. Limit Screen time – TV/Video Games/Tablets for EVERYONE.
    1. A lot of my time on the internet is spent doing nothing. As in I am just bored and clicking through YouTube, Blog Pages and social games to take up time. This is neither constructive nor healthy, so I suggest limiting screen time. If we only have 2 hours (for example) a day to be on Facebook, YouTube, blogs etc. we will really DO what we want to DO. Message the people we want to message, watch exactly those videos we really want to watch (recipes, DIY’s, romantic proposals 😉 , sports instructions etc.) and at the end of it, we won’t feel like we just “wasted” two hours of our day. We actually DID stuff, stuff that we wanted to do.
  5. Introduce Game Nights (no tech).
    1. Card games and Board Games are amazing. From Chess to Monopoly, through Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, Yahtzee to Cribbage, there are countless amazing games out there that families and friends can play together without touching a screen. The trick is finding a game that everyone will enjoy, and once you do, you will have hours or hilarious (and connected) fun. IMG_4516

In Public Spaces

  1. Be aware of your surroundings, maybe even unplug once in a while (earplugs, where’s your bag?)
    1. Don’t walk/cycle/drive and look at your phone at the same time. Also, take out at least one earbud (if not both.) Having earphones in and music blaring stops you from hearing things like bike bells/sirens and also people when they say things like “excuse me” “pardon me” or “sorry” when they try to get passed you.  (Who knows you might even notice something beautiful like bird chirping or children laughing. 😀 )
  2. Smile at people you interact with (servers, people who hold the door for you, stranger passing on the street.)
    1. Your waiter/server is a person, look them in the eye, smile, respect their presence and their job. They’ll have a better day for it, and chances are you’ll even get better service for being such a swell human being. 😉 Sometimes a smile is all you need to brighten your own day and someone else’s, especially on a stressful Monday morning. Also, smiling is healthy, ask science.
  3. Keep an eye out for someone who may need your help.
    1. Same as a smile, a simple gesture of helping someone can go a long way. Whether you reach something from a high shelf at a grocery store for someone, hold the door open for someone whose hands are full, help a lost looking tourist find their way around your city  or help a senior cross the street, you will have a lasting impact on that person’s day. There are a lot of us on this tiny planet, and if we just all watch out for one another a little bit, we can make it a better place. (Excellent video on the topic here: https://youtu.be/nwAYpLVyeFU)
  4. Respect Public Spaces.
    1. Swearing can be fun, and sometime necessary, but we have this common agreement to not do it in public and especially not in front of children. Also, we really shouldn’t spit, “air-blow” our noses, litter, leave gum, graffiti or in any other way deface public spaces; these may all seem really obvious, but when we’re all so wrapped into our own little bubbles, it’s easy to forget our manners. These are shared spaces and we share a responsibility to keep them safe and clean – that includes not blasting music so loud that everyone else has to hear it and not being an obstacle to other people by just being unaware.
  5. Really explore some local gems. 
    1. IMG_4427Get to know your home town/area. Don’t just sit at home trolling the Web all Sunday long, get out of the house and explore. Invite friends, or go on your own, but try that new local coffee shop, check out the farmers market or try a new restaurant. Does your city/town/village attract any tourists? If so, ask yourself why that is and go see the local tourist attractions. Maybe you could even take a day trip to another fascinating local town to see what they have to offer, either way connect with your surroundings.

These obviously aren’t the be all and end all, and they might not work for everyone, but I think they’re a great place to start.

Take care. xoxo

 

Disney Lessons 

After a great deal of wonderful and encouraging comments to write more about my passion for all things Disney, I decided to re-watch as many Disney movies as I please (much to the delight of husband 😉 ) and then write about them in order.

I’ll cover everything from the basic plot summary, to themes I pick up on, lessons I think I would take from it as an adult, and even discuss any common “issues” people have with the movie, such as potential subliminal messaging and whether I find them to be true or not (or at least important enough to note.)

That being said, I was all geared up and ready to start my first adventure tonight and was baffled by the pure amount of obstacles I had to overcome to get there.

So let’s begin with my (not so idiot proof) to-do list in preparation for this new series: Disney Lessons. (Let’s call this, lesson the first.)

1) Call people to a vote on Social Media as to what movie you should examine first. Cross your fingers that your favorite movie (on that list) wins and then have a half hour debate with yourself, like a crazy person, about whether you need to even follow the vote when it doesn’t come out in your favour. “But why ask if you’re just going to ignore them?” You hear your logical side plea, as your selfish inner demon snarls “I don’t really care, I had other plans, precious.” in retort, until your higher self beats both of them around their proverbial heads with an imaginary slipper because “wise up – you’re fucking fighting with yourself! Oh and the vote wins.”

Fine – the vote wins. Ow.

2) Get into Pj’s. Yesterdays Pj’s because you’re not an adult and haven’t done laundry. Damn.

3) Be health conscious and make a cup of steaming green tea and natural popcorn as your snack in the lovely pop-corn maker your brother got you for Christmas. Realize that that combination tastes like shit, melt butter to pour over that popcorn and get a chilled apple cider from the fridge. Much better.

4) Start up Netflix and realize they’ve removed the movie. Look for the movie in the old movie box. Realize that you’ve just dug all the way to the bottom the wrong movie box, this isn’t the Disney box, so try again. Find the movie. Yay!

5) Lost the remote. Dive into the precariously Mary Poppins like Cable bag… yes, the one where hopes and dreams go to die!!!

6) Finally plug in the movie and grab your computer so that you can take notes just to notice that now that your popcorn is buttery you really don’t want to be typing. Damn.

7) Remember that your other brother got you a note pad last Christmas that you vowed to use for blogging notes. Run to go get it. (Of course it’s not where you think it is, so you start searching all over your stupid little apartment… this place isn’t so big, where the damn can it be? Oh in the bag of presents from Christmas and your birthday, of course… *sigh*)

8) Get back to the sofa, book and pen in hand just to realize that the tea’s gone cold, the cider is warm, your popcorn is soggy and you’ve still not even started the movie.

Total time: One hour.

Lesson learned? Search first, prep food at the end. *eye-roll*

Well… here we go! (I’ll be back once I’m done my very deep analysis of Dumbo. Haha)

Thanks for stopping by! xoxox

Problems with the Bechdel Test

While wading through some message boards and comment sections of the internet, which is a messy business in and of itself, one can almost guarantee that where ever movies are the subject of discussion, sooner or later someone will bring up the “Bechdel Test”. It is the accepted measure to which “we” hold movies to establish whether or not women are being fairly represented in that particular work. One then, usually, has to sieve through the mindless drivel that is the sexists to a fro between self proclaimed feminist champions and non-feminists (for the sake of being polite?) in the inevitable battle of those who clearly have too much time on their hands.

Now, it is no secret that Hollywood and many of it’s international movie making colleagues, have a really bad habit of misrepresenting almost any group that isn’t comprised of white, heteronormative males and as a society and a culture, this is an issue that we desperately need to address. The “token” _____ character (as in token woman, token ethnic sidekick and token LGBTQ character just to name a few) need to stop being used. They shouldn’t be afterthoughts, set pieces, and punch lines but instead need to be fully represented as the complete human beings that we all are. (That is not to say that men in movies don’t also suffer from severe stereotyping and unrealistic expectations, but let’s tackle one issue at a time here… so today, I’ll stick to women.)

That being said, the “Bechdel Test“, which was devised, almost somewhat by accident, by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, is in principal, this simple rule: does the movie feature two women, who have names, and who talk to each other about something other than a man?

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 10.08.15 AM

It seems pretty straightforward and has also become “the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books, and other media”.[reference]

Primarily, sure, it seems like almost any movie should be able to deliver that. How hard can it be to have at least two, named, women talking to each other about something other than a man? And yet it’s indeed alarming to see just how many classic and popular movies fail this simple test.

That leads me to my main thought though; as surprising as that fact might be, my personal problem with this test is, that, in a nutshell, I think it’s useless as a measure to truly grasp a single movie’s representation of women.

I do not for one second believe that this overly simplified rule actually allows for he assessment of whether or not a movie is sexist, inclusive or empowering. So, I do not believe that a movie that does not abide this rule is inherently “sexist” or “disenfranchising” to women, and I am also very certain that just because a movie passes this test, does not mean that it actually has well rounded and properly represented female characters in it either.

Let’s take a look at one of my favourite movie series of all time as an example: Harry Potter. (7 out of the 8 movies pass according to bechdeltest.com by the way.) What inspired me to write about this topic at all, was a conversation that I had online last night about the Bechdel Test in relation to “Deathly Hallows Part 2”.

This movie passes the Bechdel test, but most “hardline” guardians of the rule believe that it shouldn’t be allowed to pass. There are three scenes that include a female character talking to another female character about something other than a man. List here:

The first one is a young Petunia yelling at her sister Lily: “You’re a freak Lilly. I’m going to tell Mummy.” in reference to Lily’s use of her magical abilities, the ones that Petuina didn’t have. (See the scene here starting at 1:05 -> https://youtu.be/LHolRZeQNG4)

The second features Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley as they prepare for the Battle of Hogwarts and Minerva declares: “I’ve always wanted to use that spell” when she has just commanded an army of stone soldiers (who only a moment previously were inanimate statues) to defend the castle. (Watch it here starting at 0:20 -> https://youtu.be/5XxfBDkCiVk)

Finally, Molly Weasley, who has just lost a child in that battle, protectively steps in front of her daughter, to fight Bellatrix and screams: “Not my daughter you bitch!” before obliterating her in a fierce magic fight. (Watch it here: https://youtu.be/Oybz5Q-If9M)

Now, the aforementioned hard line defers of the rule proclaim that none of these should count as a pass since in neither of these scenes the women talk “to each other” (it’s just one woman declaring something to the other). What nonsense.

Let’s dissect those scenes a little bit, and whether they truly need to meet the Bechdel Test standards for the women in those scenes to be considered real and well rounded characters.

Would Petunia’s fear and simultaneous jealousy of her sibling been any less real or deep, if Lily had been a boy? Would it have made a difference to the tale told in that scene, if Lily had answered in some way? We all know that Petunia grew up to be a terribly fearful, spiteful and bitter woman, who was afraid of anything different and yet  she is secretly, devastatingly jealous of the life her sister had. That anger turned back to fear when Harry arrived and she did everything she could to squash the magic out of him, in the hopes that he wouldn’t also be a “freak” like his mother. That childhood scene carries so much emotion and depth, especially to those who know the whole series, that it doesn’t need anything else, and yet, if Lily had been a boy, this scene would have failed, despite the real pain Petunia was feeling.

Minerva McGonagall has been an incredible role model throughout the entire series. Stalwart and strong willed, with a cool head and open mind she is as fine a leader and teacher as Hogwarts could ever ask for and I would even tend to say that she is an even better role model than many men in the series. In her above mentioned scene, we see a silver lining in her darkest of days, one could even call it a sense of childlike joy, cracking through her tough facade, even for just a moment as she gets to finally use that spell. Would that moment, that pure joy at doing something awesome amid the chaos, have been any less endearing, sincere or touching if she had said it to Neville, Ron or Hagrid instead of Molly? I most certainly don’t think so.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 10.37.44 AM

Molly grieving with Ron for his brother Fred.

Finally, Molly and Bellatrix. Dear mother Molly, the woman everyone wants to have looking out for them. She has been a quintessential part of the Harry Potter series since day one. A true mother and housewife by choice, she has just as much brain and brawn as any of her male counterparts, and the heart of a mother to add to it.When she selflessly stepped into battle with one of the most notorious, criminally insane, mass-murdering lunatics of her time to defend her baby, would that have been any less powerful, any less heartfelt, any less brave, or any less real if she had been defending a son? Think about it; if she had been defending Ron instead of Ginny this scene would have failed!! How on earth can that be? Is the implication here that daughters are worth more than sons? If you genuinely believe that to be true, then I invite you to go tell any mother that one of her children is somehow worth more than the others based on their sex and I’ll wait here, as you get driven to the ER to get what ever implement she got her hands on first extracted from your chest cavity.

Not tempted to try? Good – let’s move on.

All of this being said… these scenes just barely passed the “Bechdel Test” and yet the qualifications by which they passed have absolutely no bearing upon the content of scenes or the strength of their character.

(BONUS ROUND: Was Narcissa less of a woman as she defied the single most terrifying monster in the HP universe to save her son Draco, just because she talked to a man (Harry) about her son? Is Hermoine less of a genius wunderkind, or less of an incredibly loyal friend and brave fighter, just because her two best friends are boys and so most her time is spent with them? And what about Tonks? Was her sacrifice to give her son and her community a better future any less noble just because she died at her husband’s side rather than with other women?) You see where I am going with all of this don’t you?

The Bechdel Test is not, in any way shape or form, a fair way to determine whether female characters are truly represented in movies.

I believe that a character is defined by themselves, their own actions and their own strengths, regardless of their surroundings. Making the decision as to whether a movie is female friendly based on the surprisingly sexist notion of who those women should be allowed to talk to and what they should be talking about is incredibly disjointed.

There simply must be a better way to examine the balance and fair and realistic representation of women in movies. Instead of the quantity of screen time, what about the quality of said screen time? Regardless of whom the character was talking to, or about what, we should ask ourselves was the scene earnest and the characters well rounded, or was the woman (and her lines), just thrown in as an afterthought?

I’d rather see a movie with no women in it at all, than one where 2 women were crammed in as the last minute, as token females, to pass this very arbitrary test.

As I so avidly pointed out with the Harry Potter examples, it’s not about who they talk to, or what they talk about – to me it’s about it being genuine, well rounded, relevant and authentic. Whether the woman is talking to a another woman or a magic teapot and whether that conversation is about a man or a toaster, I don’t care as long as it’s real.

In closing, I would like to provide you with some alternative “movie tests” that you could read up on if you like. The Russo Test is like the Bechdel Test for the LGBTQ community, except one of their requirements is that “the character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect”. Now that makes sense! I also like the “Sexy Lamp Test“. Comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick suggested this test saying that: “If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.”

There are countless movies that fail the Bechdel Test, that (each in their own way) have awesome, amazing, funny and well rounded female characters and I will leave you with a list of those I found most surprising. I like/love all of these movies and believe that classifying them as somehow being “sexist” or “misrepresentative of women”, just for not passing this test, is unhelpful and plain wrong:

  1. Home Alone, 1990 (What won’t his mother do, to get home to Kevin?)
  2. Aladdin, 1992 (Jasmine was pretty clear in wanting to choose her own life and not letting herself be controlled.)
  3. The Pagemaster, 1994 (Fantasy proved hands down that “fantasy” is not gender specific, and that she is tough as nails.)
  4. The Hunchback of Nortre Dame, 1996 (One word: Esmeralda)
  5. Shrek, 2001 (Really? Fiona isn’t a powerful female character? )
  6. Lord of the Rings, 1, 2 and 3 (Eowyn and Arwen must have been figments of my imagination… the one defied death to save an army and the other faced mortality to be with the one she truly loved, but that’s not strength I guess).
  7. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001 (wait… what?)
  8. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2005 (super powerful female spy anybody?)
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005 (… nope …)
  10. Ratatouille, 2007 (“Keep your station clean, or I will kill you” – Chef Collette)
  11. Wall-E 2008 (BTW I just want to mention that Wall-E failed to be “female friendly” while in that same year “Twilight” passed!!)
  12. Avatar, 2009 (Yes, James Cameron’s Avatar the one with the kick ass female warriors and whose society is a religious matriarchy is not female friendly…)

You know what … that’s enough for my nerves… that’s 12 examples (I skipped so many) and I didn’t even reach the 2010’s …  you can read them all for yourself here: http://bechdeltest.com/?list=all 

It would also have been fun to comprise a list of movies that passed, but have terrible female representation… but I will leave that for another day. xoxo