Every upcoming movie goes through a feminism test known as the Bechdel Test or, the Bechdel-Wallace test. It is used as a measure of active intelligent female participation in films and other works of fiction, where they have sensible conversations on things other than men.
It is named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For it first appeared in 1985. In a strip titled “The Rule”, two women, who resemble the future characters Mo and Ginger, discuss seeing a film and the black woman explains that she only goes to a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:
- Two female characters (preferably named),
- Who talk to each other,
- About something other than a man.
The white woman acknowledges that the idea is pretty strict, but good. Not finding any films that meet their requirements, they go home together.
Can you find anything common in the following films?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II; Avatar; The Original Star Wars Trilogy; Lord of The Rings Trilogy; The Revenant; The Hurt Locker; Shrek 2008
No, they are not just among the highest grossing films ever. They ALL fail the Bechdel test. Surprising, isn’t it?
Now here are a few films you never thought would manage to pass a test even remotely related to feminism:
American Pie 2: There’s a scene where the girls talk about, you guessed it, clothes!
Remember the Titans: Too much testosterone, but hey! The coaches’ daughters manage a dialogue about dolls!
Fifty Shades of grey: Yeah. Don’t even.
The Karate Kid: Concerned family.
No Country For Old Men: Some Mother-Daughter medicine talk
Jurassic Park (1993): And two interactions that let it pass are:
Lex: “It’s in there!”
Ellie: “Control room!”
Lex: “We can call for help!”
Ellie: “We have to reboot the system first.”
More than half of the films that do manage to pass this test of feminism only do so because women talk about marriage or babies. There are some movies centered entirely around women who still fail the test, whereas, some very sexist films manage to pass the test by sneaking in a dialogue or two. Well, never two. In the television series Sex and the City, which also fails the test, one of the four female main characters asks, “How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It’s like seventh grade with bank accounts!”
FEMINISM IN POPULAR CULTURE
I know, people probably didn’t even think that much about female representation in works of fiction. No, it is not a conspiracy by anti-feminists to degrade women even more. Even though some films manage to pass just by the skin of their teeth, the test is fast coming onto the radars of major filmmakers.
Several variants of the test have been proposed—for example, that the two women must be named characters, or that there must be at least a total of 60 seconds of conversation. Although there is a long way to go for this
The European cinema fund Eurimages and some Nordic cable television channels have incorporated the Bechdel test into some of their ratings. Eurimages requires “a Bechdel analysis of the script to be supplied by the script readers”. It is also applied to comics and video games nowadays. British actor Beth Watson launched a “Bechdel Theatre” campaign in 2015 that aims to highlight test-passing plays with tweets.
If passing the test were a stringent criterion, it would severely have jeopardized half of the Academy Award for Best Picture nominees. The Bechdel Test is surely a step towards gender equality as directors nowadays are trying to incorporate more and more meaningful female characters in their movies. Even if women of the world haven’t yet claimed their rightful share in real life, we hope the reel-life will be a step towards it.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.