Twenty-one artists, scholars and activists, including cartoonist Alison Bechdel, have been awarded the MacArthur Genius grants this year, the foundation announced Wednesday. Each fellow will receive $625,000 over the next five years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Of the fellows, Bechdel is the most "internet famous" thanks to the Bechdel Test, a standard for movies introduced in Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. To pass the test, a movie has to have 1) two named female characters 2) who talk to each other 3) about something other than a man. It's a disappointingly difficult standard for Hollywood. Bechdel was also the editor of the 2011 edition of Best American Comics and her work has appeared in publications like The New Yorker, Slate and the The New York Times Book Review.
In a video on her grant, Bechdel said that all of the characters in her comic strip are actually "thinly disguised versions" of herself. "No matter what they look like ... they're all basically me," she said. Bechdel is currently working on graphic memoirs about her family, including her father's suicide.
The other winners of the grant include poet Terrance Hayes, playwright Samuel D. Hunter, labor activist Ai-jen Poo and others. Here's a full list of the winners:
- Danielle Bassert, 32, physicist
- Alison Bechdel, 54, cartoonist and graphic memoirist
- Mary L. Bonauto, 53, civil rights lawyer
- Tami Bond, 50, environmental engineer
- Steve Coleman, 57, jazz composer and saxophonist
- Sarah Deer, 41, legal scholar and advocate
- Jennifer L. Eberhardt, 49, social psychologist
- Craig Gentry, 41, computer scientist
- Terrance Hayes, 42, poet
- John Henneberger, 59, housing advocate
- Mark Hersam, 39, materials scientist
- Samuel D. Hunter, 33, playwright
- Pamela O. Long, 71, historian of science and technology
- Rick Lowe, 53, public artist
- Jacob Lurie, 36, mathematician
- Khaled Mattawa, 50, translator and poet
- Joshua Oppenheimer, 39, documentary filmmaker
- Ai-jen Poo, 40, labor organizer
- Jonathan Rapping, 48, criminal lawyer
- Tara Zahra, 38, historian of modern Europe
- Yitang Zhang, 59, mathematician
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