The Bechdel Test is a way of assessing women’s roles in movies. It was devised by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 and can highlight a severe gender bias across the film industry.
To pass the Bechdel Test, a film must satisfy the following requirements:
- It has to have at least two women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man.
Bechdel came up with the test as part of her Dykes to Watch out for comic strip, that particular entry entitled ‘The Rule’. She attributes the idea to her friend Liz Wallace. It is otherwise known as the Bechdel Rule, Bechdel’s Law, the Bechdel/Wallace Test, and the Mo Movie Measure.
If you take a moment to apply the Bechdel Test to a bunch of films, it’s quite startling how many don’t meet the criteria. Of course, your feelings on that will depend on how much you think it actually matters whether films pass the test. And the test does have its limitations. It’s very possible that a film could pass the test but still contain highly sexist content. Similarly, it could fail the test but still have strong female characters and themes.
To see a reasonably comprehensive list of films and whether they pass the test or not (and if not, why), then check out bechdeltest.com.
Personally, I think it’s pretty flawed, primarily for the reasons mentioned above, although it is interesting to think about just how few women there are in many films and how male-centric the industry clearly still is. I guess a lot of this comes down to the writers and whether they should consciously try and write more female characters into their screenplays, although I’m not sure shoehorning a female character into a film for the sake of it is the right thing to do. It’s a topic that could be debated until the end of time.
So what do you think? Is the Bechdel Test a load of feminist nonsense? Or does it serve to highlight the lack of strong female roles in films? Spill your guts in the comments below.
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