Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bechdel Test as Applied to Romance Comics!

It isn't a surprise that most dialogue in romance comics is, well, about romance! Boys, marriage and all things courtship usually dominate the panels of our beloved genre! The following two panels from the story, "The Only Girl for Him!" from Secret Hearts #149 (January 1971) serve as good examples of pretty typical romance comic dialogue.


If one looks hard enough, however, there are the occasional panels in romance comics that feature young women talking about things other than romance! But I must admit, these types of panels that pass what is known as the Bechdel Test are in the minority. Most commonly used in film criticism, the Bechdel Test first appeared in a 1985 comic strip by Alison Bechdel titled, "The Rule." The three main qualifiers to see if movies (or in our case, romance comic book panels) pass this test are:

1.) There must be at least two female characters
2.) These two characters must talk to each other
3.) Discussion must center around something other than men

The following panels are ones that I have selected because I feel they fit the terms of the Bechdel Test. Though it is expected by their very nature that romance stories center around the discussion of romantic partners, these panels show that careers, familial relations and cultural issues were not only on the minds of the characters, but on the minds of the creators -- who recognized that these issues were relevant in the lives of their readers.

"Love Against Time"
Young Love #54 (March/April 1966)
Pencils: Tony Abruzzo, Inks: Bernard Sachs

"Rendevous on Cloud 9" [sic]
Career Girl Romances #47 (October 1968)

"Love Can't Happen Here"
Romantic Story #99 (March 1969)
Pencils and Inks: Ernesto R. Garcia

"Abandoned!"
Girls' Love Stories #146 (October 1969)
Pencils: Tony Abruzzo

"My Double Love!"
Girls' Love Stories #148 (January 1970)
Pencils: Ric Estrada, Inks: Vince Colletta

"The Loneliest Girl in Town!"
Girls' Romances #150 (July 1970)
Pencils: Jack Sparling, Inks: Vince Colletta

"All About Holly!"
Heart Throbs #139 (March 1972)

"The Price is Right!"
Young Romance #182 (May 1972)
Script: Irene Vartanoff, Pencils and Inks: Jack Abel

"Give Him Back"
Heart Throbs #141 (May 1972)
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky

"Take an Order, Darling"
Just Married #76 (April 1971)

"The Awakening of Nancy Turner"
My Love #11 (May 1971)

"Once Upon a Time... in My Heart!"
Our Love Story #21 (February 1973)
Script: Joy Jackson, Pencils: Jim Mooney, Inks: Ernie Chua

"Journey to Love!"
Secret Hearts #148 (December 1970)
Pencils by Jay Scott Pike

"A Little Kiss for Big Sister!"
Young Love #84 (January/February 1971)
Pencils: Art Saaf

Now, I am aware that three of these panels do mention men (a father, a male professor and Elton John) but I included them because I felt the males were not necessarily the point of the conversation. Even though this exercise holds these mid-century romance comic book characters up to a 1980s and later standard, it turned out to be an interesting challenge and one that proves that romance comics aren't just all fluff and talk of dating and marriage!

2 comments:

  1. Interesting idea and great finds; it never occurred to me that you could find panels basically pass the Bechdel Test in romance comics (although it would probably be too much to ask for a whole story given the nature of the genre).
    By the way, that panel from the story "Take an Order, Darling," with the mom making a comment about 'feminine weakness' would seem to be a classic illustration of the 'female chauvinist pig.'

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  2. Thanks, Edo! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an entire story that would have passed -- but I guess that is what makes it the romance genre and not, say, girl adventure books. That panel that you mention from Just Married is quite harsh, but it fits and yes, does seem to be an example of female chauvinism.

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