Readers Write In #59: Is the film playing Kill-Marry-Hook Up with its female characters?

Posted on November 11, 2018


‘Kill-Marry-Hook Up’, for the uninitiated, is a conversation game where participants are presented with three names. They are then forced to map each name with exactly one option from ‘Kill’, ‘Marry’ or ‘Hook Up’. ‘Hook Up’ is usually replaced with a “profane” synonym, but let’s stick to the Koffee With Karan version of the title. Now that the definitions are out of the way…

Sacred Games or: How I learned to stop worrying and killed all the female characters

I was recently watching Sacred Games on Netflix. Like pretty much everyone else, I had decided to binge watch the whole thing. Let’s get it done with, I thought. Anurag Kashyap, Mumbai, Crime, Nawaz, Phantom Pictures (RIP), Radhika Apte… What could possibly go wrong. A few hours into the marathon, I was distracted by a phone call that I had to take. The episode was running in the background but I wasn’t paying any attention to it. When I finally came back to th e screen, I noticed that a prominent female character was now missing. I navigated back to the precise frame where she was still visible. And in two seconds, boom! It was now time for the men to clean up and seek revenge.

After vengeance was had, in came another female character. And just like her predecessor, Nawaz married her, hooked up with her and then she died. Time for Vengeance Part 2: Return of the Vengeance.

Sure, the life of a gangster is full of sob stories around the loss of his loved ones (yawn). Some might argue that these incidents merely reflect the self-destructive path that he embarks upon and in no way condone his actions.

Except, they DO condone his actions.

You cannot load a series or a movie with a million memorable moments that glorify this behaviour and then say ‘There is a social message here because he dies in the end’. I’m not insinuating that every movie needs a message or must preach non-violence and harmony. But personally, I’m bored of the female stereotypes that reside in these worlds.

The Kill-Marry-Hook Up Test

Upon completing the series, I decided to come up with a framework for analysing these tropes. Owing to my inability for sophistication, I decided to call it ‘The Kill-Marry-Hook Up Test’ or KMHUT. This test involves a single question: ‘Is the film playing Kill-Marry-Hook Up with its female characters?’. The answer is yes (which means the film failed the test) if:

  • Most of  the female characters are killed unceremoniously
  • Female characters do nothing much apart from being wives or mothers
  • Female characters are remembered just for the sex scenes

While the Bechdel Test gives a sense of how important women are to a plot, it doesn’t reflect directly on the possible misogyny that is unfolding on screen. Women may be talking to each other about things other than men, but what if they then get killed in the next frame for no real reason?

Of course, this does not work all the time. Films like Iraivi are self-aware and actually use these stereotypes to comment on the way women are treated. The same can be said about the films of K. Balachander or Puttana Kanagal. The test results are merely indicative. A deeper analysis of the movie’s intentions are needed to conclude on anything.


I want to sign off by listing out KMHUT results for some directors. I’ve chosen directors whose films have a bit of violence in them. Number of capital letters in the name indicate the regularity with which said director fails the KMHUT

  • ANURag KASHYap: Barring a couple of exceptions, his movies notoriously fail the test. Also, the number of femme fatales in his stories are laughably high
  • Vishal Bhardwaj: A director and a gentleman! Apart from making some of the greatest films in Bollywood history, Bhardwaj also passes the test on most occasions
  • MaRtIn ScOrSeSe: Since most of his movies revolve around men (almost always narrated by a man), the women become natural auxiliaries to the plot. That being said, there are usually one or two strong female characters who act independently and also survive till the end. Hence the mix of caps and small
  • SAM PECKINPAH: This rating was given because of how egregiously he fails the test in the handful of his films that I’ve seen. Also watch out for MEL GIBSON’s remake of The Wild Bunch next year
  • QuentIN TarantiNO: Tarantino’s movies are replete with strong female characters in almost every film. A few caps here and there owing to the excessive brutality that a lot of them are subjected to

(by Gautham Srinivas)