Allison Bechdel responded to a controversial tweet about the new film Fire Island yesterday with an update to her “Bechdel test.” On Monday, author and podcast producer Hanna Rosin sparked outrage when she tweeted a critique of the film, asserting that it failed to meet the test’s criteria of including a scene in which two women talk about something other than a man.
Bechdel, who originated the concept in her 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, issued a pitch-perfect response: “Okay, I just added a corollary to the Bechdel test: 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.”
Okay, I just added a corollary to the Bechdel test: 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. #FireIsland #BechdelTest
— Alison Bechdel (@AlisonBechdel) June 8, 2022
The Fun Home author was referring to a scene in the film, centered on a pair of gay Asian American men, in which writer/star Joel Kim Booster’s character debates a Monro story with his love interest, played by Conrad Ricamora.
Prior to Bechdel’s response, Rosin deleted her original tweet, which fans of the film decried as out of touch and a misapplication of the Bechdel test. Rosin also issued a thoughtful, heartfelt apology along with a screenshot of her original tweet.
“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,” Rosin wrote on Tuesday afternoon.
I deleted a tweet that many of you rightly pointed out was offensive. 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 1/3 pic.twitter.com/FEI0sDqXJe
— Hanna Rosin (@HannaRosin) June 7, 2022
A contemporary take on Pride and Prejudice, Fire Island transposes the romantic and class dynamics of Jane Austen’s story to the storied queer summer get-away off the coast of Long Island, New York. Booster and Yang star as best friends who deal with various romantic and sexual entanglements while navigating their feelings of alienation as Asian Americans amongst the largely white, wealthy gay community.
Critics of Rosin’s original take accused the author of The End of Men of attempting to center white cis woman in a story about gay Asian American men—a group rarely afforded star billing in mainstream films. Many also took issue with her characterization of Booster and co-star Bowen Yang’s characters as “Asian boys” and Margaret Cho’s as a “drab lesbian.”
Booster didn’t address Rosin’s tweet, rather referring to it obliquely in a Tuesday tweet: “I picked a hilarious day to log back on.”
Cho, on the other hand, offered a more direct response: “I didn’t realize I was drab. I don’t identify as drab. Bitch I’m fab!”