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Listening Lamps and the Bechdel-Wallace Test

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While writing a rec I started wondering how many fanfics would pass a Bechdel-Wallace test, especially if they weren't femslash stories? The first part is generally easy -- two named female characters in the story. The second, that they talk to one another, is often possible, although I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few stories that don't have that happen either. The last, that they talk to one another about something other than a man? I'd be very curious to see the stats on it.

What directed my attention to this was a recent story that stood out to me because (among other things) it did not do the "listening lamp" trope.

I imagine many have heard of the "sexy lamp" problem of women's portrayal in films and TV shows. But in fanfic in particular, I see the "listening lamp" all the time. The character is generally a woman, though not always, and a friend of one of the protagonists (man or woman). Their job is to either listen to whining, cheerlead for a pairing, or to actually instigate the meeting and development of the romance. What it does not consist of is any development for the character herself.

The friend may or may not get any kind of characterization –- in some cases they are literally a prop that is a stand-in for the author or reader who wants things to work out. In others they may have an enjoyable relationship with the lead(s) in the story. But what they don't get is anything but cursory references to their own lives, or their own romance (which does often happen, especially in canons with important secondary pairings). In the story I read, the first real conversation we see between the lead and his close friend is her talking about her life with next to no discussion of his. It was unusual enough to stand out to me.

Although it is, unsurprisingly, often in gen stories that I see multiple characters get development, I really don't see why it couldn't happen more often in other story types. Many fanfiction stories are short, in which case no one is getting much development.
But in longer stories (which is what I almost always read), there's really no reason that a friendship couldn't be seen as going both ways for once.