Have you guys heard of the Bechdel test? Evidently it’s been around for ages, but I just heard of it yesterday (what kind of feminist am I?). It’s pretty interesting stuff. The idea is to find a scene in a movie where two female characters talk about something other than men. Even when you make it a 60 second minimum there are still so many that fail the test.
The feminist frequency explains it pretty well:
It seems almost hard to believe this could be the case. How could so many movies not have one conversation with two women not about men? And yet I now think about it and there amazingly few that past the test. I’m trying to think about recent movies. I’m particularly thinking about Frozen. It passes the test! There are conversations as children not about men and then about saving the town from the winter in the castle, the ending isn’t about a man. Now I like it even more.
How did we do in 2013?
There is also the interesting idea of the smurfette principle. Basically the token woman (ie Princess Leia) amongst a troop of men.
This is not necessarily saying the movies that fail the bechdel test are bad. Pixar movies all fail the test except for maybe Brave. Will have to think about that one.
As she says good movies fail the test and bad movies pass the test so it isn’t a test of quality merely presence of women in stories.
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting and wanted to share it with all of you. What do you think? Is it too much to hope for or is the test not accurate or silly?
4 thoughts on “Bechdel Test”
I just learned about this within the last couple of months myself. I think it helps me be more aware of the attitudes toward women that are present in the things I watch and especially in the things I let my daughter watch. She seems naturally drawn to movies and books that do pass the test, which is nice. I think it will be equally important to be aware of the this if I ever have a son. Not that I’ll only allow movies that pass it, but I’d like to make sure my kids aren’t getting a steady diet of movies that don’t pass.
I agree. It’s so surprising. I looked at the recent post I did on movies from each decade and I listed 67 movies, 36 pass.
Of course, there are movies with strong women just not 2 of them like Gravity or the Before Sunrise movies. I’d understand movies not passing but to have it happen so frequently shows a lack of stories being told. that is concerning.
Surprisingly the Disney movies do pretty well. Even a movie like Cinderella passes (Lady Tremaine telling Cinderella about the chores, Fairy Godmother and getting ready for ball).
My divine Nora Ephron passes with all her movies (I knew I liked her!).
It really is mind blowing that so many don’t pass. It seems like such a basic thing to include women who have their own thoughts independent of men, and yet it’s not a predominant feature in the movies we watch in the 21st century. I know it has changed the way I watch movies and I can only hope that it changes the way others do too, because that is what will affect change in the movie industry.
And some I have talked about this with have said ‘who cares?’. Clearly a movie like Gravity is a women-centric movie that involves only 2 characters, the main one being a woman. That is awesome.
But I think the test is more effective when looking at broader trends rather than individual movies. When only 2 movies at the Oscars passes the test that tells you that stories collectively aren’t including more than 2 women talking about their lives.
Since movies are the main storytelling devices of our day that is concerning. Like Kate Blanchett said at her Oscar win ‘the world has curves!’
There has long been the idea that girls will watch things about boys more than boys will watch things about girls and I think this idea continues to adult men and women stories. I don’t know if that gives boys and men enough credit. I mean I wondered if boys would like Frozen but they did.