Analyzing the Bechdel Test

You may have seen articles about it scrolling through your preferred social media platforms, or you may have heard about it walking out of the latest blockbuster: the Bechdel Test.  The “feminist movie test” originally came about from a comic strip by Alison Bechdel, with no intention of it becoming a “test” whatsoever.  There are three basic rules to fulfill when following the test’s guidelines: 1) there have to be two women in the movie who 2) talk to each other about 3) something unrelated to a man.  Oof… tough.

Picture Credit: Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace
Picture Credit: Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace

While it’s great that the Bechdel Test has been drawing attention to the lack of well-rounded female characters in the film industry, it can easily become misinterpreted and create a dialogue that is misinformed.  Many people and news outlets have made the mistake of classifying movies as “feminist friendly” simply because it passes the Bechdel Test without really evaluating the extent to which it passes.  There are many movies that pass the test on technicalities while still not portraying truly dynamic female characters.  At the exact same time, there are groundbreaking movies that don’t pass the Bechdel Test but may have one or two fully fleshed out female characters that portray women in a better, more realistic light.  Even critically-acclaimed movies directed or produced by women don’t earn recognition for being “feminist films” when they are doin’ the damn thing by breaking the glass ceilings of Hollywood- even if they don’t have two girls who have a completely useless conversation in order to pass a test that was created as a joke.

So now we have some questions that need to be answered.  Why are there so few dynamic, round, female characters in popular movies?  Black Widow is just an accessory to a group, she has no great background explained in any of the Avenger movies that makes her especially significant.  And if we’re talking about superheroes, what about all of the new comic-based movies coming out?  Where are the female characters to begin with?  Deadpool, Antman, The Suicide Squad (at least there’s Harley Quinn?), Captain America: Civil War, the list goes on.

We need more female representation in Hollywood.  We need more accurate female representation that doesn’t cast a white woman as a native Hawaiian, that doesn’t have the actress playing someone twice her age while the male is casted because of his age, that doesn’t make the girls seem like ditzes and cutiepies and nothing more than an accessory to the main male role (you don’t need a link for that one, the proof is in the pudding my friends).

To try and make this start happening, we need to actually talk about Hollywood, the sexism in the film industry, and the lack of representation of females in movies.  Start conversations about it after you go see your new favorite movies.  I’m so excited to see all of these new superhero movies, do not get me wrong, but after I go see all of them in IMAX and eat a tub of popcorn, I’m going to start conversations with my friends in hopes to bring these often neglected ideas to attention.  The Bechdel Test is a great test for pointing out the limited amount of female characters that actually seem like they were thought out, but not so great in generalizing a movie on its feminist worth.  So use it!  Start conversations!  Knock yourself out!  Just don’t forget to continue analyzing the equality (or lack-thereof) of the male and female characters in these films.

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