I reviewed No Country For Old Men using the Bechdel and Mako Mori Tests, and Fight Club using my own R/Niceguy test.
No Country For Old Men
I loved No Country For Old Men. It was tense, well-written, the performances were phenomenal. There was nothing about the movie I can think of which didn’t floor me. However, after looking at the movie in relation to the Bechdel (And Mako Mori) Tests, I found that it definitely fell short.
I’ll start with the Mako Mori test, because holding the Mako Mori test to this movie is a joke. There are a small handful of women in the movie, most of them unnamed, who serve solely as plot devices for the leading roles, all of which are male. Carla Jean, the wife of Llewelyn Moss, one of the leads, barely speaks throughout the movie, presenting a shallow, very two-dimensional character. And she’s the closest to a strong female character in the whole movie. So, the Mako Mori Test? Hard fail.
As for the Bechdel Test: Initially, I assumed it failed hard as well. However, after doing some research, I found there was a scene in which Carla Jean speaks to her mother about medication. It’s barely a conversation, and there is also some contention as to whether or not it passes the first part of the Bechdel Test: There being two named female characters. In the translation from Cormac Mccarthy’s novel of the same name, a few characters were watered down to condense it to a film format. Carla Jean’s mother, Agnes Kracik, who was named in the novel, was never referred to in the movie with a name, save for a split-second scene in which her name is written. The movie technically passes the test, but so slightly that a fail is entirely debateable.
Ultimately, it’s clearly not the type of movie the creators of the Bechdel Test had in mind as an ideal. It is a story by men, about men, for men, and the fact that the movie had to be scoured for a pass makes it questionable. I loved the movie, but it’s definitely not a feminist piece.
The R/Niceguy Test
A Niceguy (Or Niceguy™) is a term for men who claim to be nice, and believe that being nice entitles them to women. Popularized by the reddit.com subreddit, r/NiceGuys, these men will often become abruptly hostile when rejected or ignored, proving that, despite the term, they are not really nice guys.
A common theme among said Niceguys, is the idea that they would be better partners to people they are romantically, or sexually, interested in than their current partners. Since I found this subreddit, I’ve been looking closer at different forms of media, and I’ve found a striking number of books, movies, songs, shows, etc. which have an empathized character who believes that they are the right choice for someone, better than others. So I came up with the R/Niceguy test.
A media piece fails the test if any of the following happen:
A protagonist is persistently interested in someone either uninvolved or uninterested.
A protagonist openly resents another character for not being romantically or sexually interested in them.
A character openly resents the significant other of a character they are romantically or sexually interested in.
A character leaves their significant other for the protagonist.
The last rule might seem a little too intense. We all know the story where the two leads are truly made for each other, but each tied down by their own commitments. They struggle to be with one another, struggling with both their surroundings and themselves, but, ultimately, make the right choice in the end, and walk, hand in hand, into the sunset. We all know this story. And that’s the problem.
This teaches people that they should pursue people, be persistent, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, because, ultimately, the people they like will come around and make the ‘right’ choice. This leads to characteristic Niceguy behavior. Which leads to much worse things. So, I decided to hold one of my favorite movies to this standard: Fight Club.
Once again, a movie based on a book. And once again, I loved this movie. I’ve always struggled with how to perceive this movie from a gender-based perspective: The movie delves heavily into topics of masculinity, misogyny, gender roles in society, and there is great contention as to what is satire and what is not. The unnamed protagonist lives a boring, corporate life. He spends his time working, or furnishing his apartment, which he, himself, admits is worthless. He befriends a man named Tyler Durden, who lives an entirely opposite life from the narrator: Tyler rejects capitalism. He rejects what he perceives as the societal emasculation and castration of men, as society drifts further and further from hunter-gatherer societies. The movie explores what it means to be a man, settling on some very skewed beliefs and practices: One being the titular Fight Club, a club for men only where they beat each other senseless just to feel like men. The movie never really expresses which form of existence is better, and the story has inspired many young boys to delve into very toxic masculinity. However, that’s a different debate. I want to talk about Marla Singer, and her love triangle with the Narrator and Tyler Durden.
The narrator first meets Marla Singer in a support group for people with testicular cancer. A very fitting setting given the material. Neither the Narrator nor Marla have testicular cancer, but they both find thrill in attending the support groups. They talk briefly about why they attend support groups for diseases they don’t have, exchange numbers, and don’t see each other for a long time. Then, the Narrator meets Tyler Durden.
Marla calls the Narrator further into the story, asking to see him, and the Narrator is dismissive. Not wanting to be involved in her life, he decides not to see her, and leaves, but finds out later that Tyler Durden picked up the phone which he had left unhooked, and went to see her instead. They begin to develop a sexual relationship, which the Narrator quickly becomes jealous of. While it is unclear whether the Narrator is jealous of Tyler for his relationship or of Marla for Tyler’s attention, the Narrator is clearly resenting another character’s significant other.
I’d like to talk about the plot twist of the movie, so this is a spoiler warning.
It is revealed at the end of the story that Tyler Durden and the Narrator were the same person the whole time. This complicates the love triangle a bit, being that the Narrator resents himself for being the significant other of the person he is interested in, or maybe resents Marla for being the significant other of himself. Ultimately, however, the story presents the Narrator and Tyler durden as two seperate people, so I’m inclined to count it as a fail, because the message is still there.