Life, Reading, Writing

The “Bechdel Test”

Last week, I was catching up on some of my blog reading and I read something that REALLY intrigued me.  It’s called the “Bechdel Test.”  It’s used to identify gender bias in fiction, especially in films, though it easily crosses over into the written word.  In order to pass the test, the movie or book must contain the following three criteria:  

1. It has to have at least two named women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man.
You’d think there’d be a TON of movies and books that have these three elements in them, but last night, my step-mom and I were trying to name some movies that pass the Bechdel Test and it was surprisingly difficult to do.  Here’s the link we used to check our movies in our impromptu quiz:  Bechdel Test Movie List.
When you start breaking it down and REALLY thinking about it, there are TONS of movies where male, “named characters” talk to each other about something other than a woman.  They talk about war, and politics, and saving the world.  They talk about LIFE!  Why is the reverse true?  This makes NO sense to me!!!  Even if the “named” female characters aren’t talking about their husbands or boyfriends, they’re talking about their father, their son, a male teacher, a male coworker…they’re still talking about a man.  I don’t get it!!!  And…I’m surprised I’ve never noticed this before.  Seriously?  I’m a woman.  I do have female friends.  We talk about things besides the “males” in our life.  Yes.  It can be done.  LOL  So WHY isn’t this reflected in movies and literature?  This was taken straight off of Wikipedia’s site:

  Explanations that have been offered to explain why relatively few films pass the Bechdel test include the relative lack of diversity among scriptwriters,[9] or their assumptions about the audience’s preferences: A scriptwriting student at UCLA wrote in 2008 that she was told by professors that the audience “only wanted white, straight, male leads” and not, as she quoted a male industry professional as saying, “a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”[15]   

Wow!  Umm… Yeah…  Us gals only talk about pantyhose and lip gloss.  No wonder no one wants to listen to what we have to say.  Pfftttt!!!!!!  I must have missed that particular memo.  Maybe I was out taking pictures, or catching up on world events, or working in my garden, or putting new brakes on my car!!!  Sadly, if two named female characters do have an insipid conversation about shoes or makeup, the movie or book passes the Bechdel Test, though I think it misses the point of the test.  Big time!
I’ve seen lots of movies and read lots of books that have male and female characters in them.  And yes, I’ve seen these characters interact with each other as equals.  So why can’t the “named” female characters interact with each other as people.  Why do they only interact with each other directly when a guy is involved?  Would we all run for popcorn if two women talked to each other about ANYTHING other than a man?  Would everyone ask for their money back?  
Let me check my calender…I think I need to see what century we’re living in.
Have a great day!


4 thoughts on “The “Bechdel Test””

  1. You know, I’ve never noticed this in movies or books before. But I’ll probably be watching for that now. Please don’t hate me, but I’m not usually a big fan of typical “chick flicks” (even though a lot of my writing leans that way), so my tastes tend to run toward action, horror, mystery, or comic book movies (like the Avengers). But even those types of movies should have interaction between females. I’m sitting here trying to remember those types of conversations, and I can’t think of any. You KNOW I’m going to be watching for that now. 🙂


    1. LOL I like “some” chick flicks, if they’re well written. I like it when the women in the movie have a strong personality. I like comedy. “Chick flicks” are often just as bad as any of the others because they’re often about falling in love…with a guy. And that’s ALL the ladies talk about.

      I LOVED the movie “Juno.” Yes. It passed the test. “Pieces of April.” is a good movie and maybe a tiny bit chick flicky. It also passes the test. Interestingly enough, both movies were independently made.

      I love action movies, mysteries, and thrillers. So why is it soooo hard to have ONE scene in an entire film to involving 2 ladies talking about SOMETHING other than a guy? Doesn’t that seem strange to you? Women can’t talk to each other about a crime scene? A government conspiracy? ANYTHING? I’m not hating on men. It just seems strangely one-sided. Two male superheroes can talk about their plans to save the world…yet again. YAY!!!! They talk to each about racing fast cars, and bombs, and weapons. They might even be able to talk to a woman about these things…but the women DON’T have these conversations with each other. It’s just so weird. It makes you think.


  2. Hmmm. You know, I’ve never paid attention to this either. it probably has something to do with the movie industry’s assumption that 20-27 year old males are the prime movie goers, and so they are catering to them in an effort to get their cash. Sadly they need to adjust to the new reality – most 20-something males would rather stay home and play video games. As one so eloquently put it on a website I was once reading “Why would I want to take my girlfriend out and spend a bunch of money on her when we can stay home and I can play my x-box”.

    And these are the guys Hollywood wants to cater to. Scary.


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