Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies

A friend of mine recently posted a link to this short, but very interesting video regarding the Bechdel Test for Women in Movies.

As outlined in the video, these are criteria used to gauge female presence in a film summed up in three questions:
  1. Are there more than two female characters (with names)?
  2. Do they speak to each other?
  3. Do they speak to each other about something other than men?
In going through my own video collection, as I was apt to do after watching this clip, I was surprised how few films even made it past the first question.  I was also surprised how many that did make it past were kid-oriented.

Here's a short list of the few movies I own that, to the best of my recollection, pass this test:

  1. Ghost World - One of the main themes of the film is the tenuous connection between Enid and Becky
  2. Go - Although kind of an ensemble cast, there's enough focus on Ronna and Clair as protagonists that they manage to make the cut
  3. Drop Dead Gorgeous - Although hardly a feminist film (or, is it??  ... satire is funny that way) it passes the test easy.  There's barely a guy in the film, let alone as a main focus.
  4. Bandits - A fantastic German film about four inmates from a womens correctional facility who break out of prison and go on the lam.. all the while being rockstars!  And it's presented much more realistically than it ever sounds like it could be.
  5. Home for the Holidays - Relationships between mother and daughters, between sisters, between brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters... the post-dinner scene between Claudia and Joanne is enough to qualify it alone.  I should mention this is one of my favorites.
  6. Juno - talking with your best friend and or step mom about how you got knocked up isn't quite the same as talking about guys, is it?   At any rate, I'm going to guess that talking to some random chick from school (who DOES have a name, I just don't remember) about fetuses with fingernails shouldn't.

  7. Thelma and Louise - In its time it was hailed as a great feminist film, except if you consider our protagonists pay for their break from gender expectations with their LIVES.. See, ladies, that's what happens when you drink, flirt, get raped in a parking lot and flee the law after you blow his sodomizing brains away... your ass is getting driven off a cliff.  Now back in the kitchen and make me a sammich.

    Come to think of it.. I don't know if this one counts.. Davis and Sarandon actually do spend most of the film yakking about men - Thelma's douchebag husband, the guy who tried to rape her in the parking lot, the guy who raped Louise in Texas (okay, she spent a lot of the movie NOT talking about that guy), the guy who won't marry Louise, the douchebag cops who are trying to catch them, and let's not forget, Brad Pitt's sweet sweet theiving ass.  Ohmm.

Let's just take a moment to relive that particular moment, shall we?

I found a lot more kids movies met the criteria... I'm not going to go into detail, but some of the ones that we own that passed muster include:
  • Matilda
  • Madeline
  • Eloise at Christmastime
  • Ella Enchanted
  • The Little Princess
  • Willow (I was actually really excited when I realized this one counted.. Sorsha talks to Queen Bavmorda about Elora Dannon.. so it totally works!)
Anyway, I dare you all to take a look into your own collection and see what passes.


    1. Here from Feministe.

      I do this. I watch 50 movies a year.
      It never ceases to amaze me that movies from the 30s and 40s do better than current ones.
      My 2010 list

      The 2009 list as well.

      I've encountered wonderful movies that don't even have female characters: Love!Valour!Compassion! and Dawn Patrol. I've seen really cheesy ones that pass: the Resident Evil series. It's not a measure of quality film, only of women's roles.

    2. Oh, it's definitely not a measure for quality.. hell, Barbie and The Diamond Castle made the cut. (one of my kid's movies.. *shudders*)


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