Bechdel Movie Test

We talk a lot in class about how minorities are portrayed in films but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to women in movies. Think back to the last film you saw and conjure an image of 2 men talking about anything. Not hard, right? How about 2 women talking? That’s a little harder.

There’s a test available to try framing different films called the Bechdel Test. Named for the creator Alison Bechdel after a comic strip she wrote, the rule states that a movie must fall under 3 categories.

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
The Bechdel Test
Challenge accepted! How hard could it be? There’s a list online of a lot of movies describing how they fall under the Bechdel Rule. If you don’t see your favorite movie on there, submit a rating!
My first question was, “Why don’t filmmakers see this and actually try to make films that will pass the test?”
Filmmaker Jennifer Keller wrote an article answering that question. She was told by executives that her scripts would not be accepted and she challenged them with surprising results.

My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).

At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation from an industry pro: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

Yes, people still think like this. And I checked. Even children’s films fall under scrutiny and fail.

How do your favorite films measure up?


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