The Bechdel Test

My younger sister is in college, and so she frequently comes home with interesting tidbits of knowledge. Recently, she told me about the Bechdel Test – something I’d heard mentioned before, but never really looked into. Essentially, the Bechdel Test is used to determine the importance of women in a film. Here are the rules

                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 that it would be easy to pass this test, but some of the greatest movies of our time fail, either because there is only one female character (no matter how important) or because the female characters don’t interact with each other. A majority of chick flicks (films filled with women and made specifically for women) fail because the girls never get around to talking about anything other than boys.

I took a look at my own stories, and the only ones that pass the Bechdel Test are my lesbian romances. My gay romances are so short that they rarely feature secondary characters of any importance, much less meeting these three criteria. In my work in progress, a collection of novellas almost like a season of television, I’ve noticed improvement. While they’re still short so each story doesn’t have more than two or three secondary characters involved with my main characters, there are quite a few female characters that work with my heroine – and do things other than discuss boys (though there is plenty of that, since it’s a romance after all).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly content to watch an all male cast battle to save the Earth, and I have no problem with there only being one female lead character in a world of men. But I do want to make sure that there is a little diversity in my writing to spice things up. What do they say? “Variety is the spice of life.” We have to get out of our ruts every once in a while and try the unexpected. (Shameless plug to my slogan right there).

1 thought on “The Bechdel Test”

  1. I was studying the Bechdel test in school, and I realized that there were a lot of popular movies that didn’t pass the test as well. Movies such as Avatar, Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, and many more don’t pass the test. Some of them, like Harry Potter, I thought it was okay that they didn’t pass, because of the circumstances of the movie, such as the war occurring in Harry Potter, though I do believe there was dialogue between two female characters. For most of the movies, I found that I could justify why they didn’t pass the Bechdel test, and that made me kind of sad. A lot of the movies, it was because of the time when the book was written, such as Lord of the Rings, which I completely justify because it was written in the 1930s. Some of my friends could justify movies, such as any from the James Bond series, in which women are mainly sex symbols and only there for Bond to sleep with, and that I found difficult to accept. Why should we be able to justify demeaning women to sex symbols and objectifying them in such a way as to label them unimportant?

    Another thing about the Bechdel test is the looseness of the third criterion, in which they need to talk about something other than a man. Does this mean that they simply can’t talk about them in terms of a relationship with them or not about a man in general? For many movies, such as Harry Potter, the protagonist and the antagonist are both males, and so when they are discussing the enemy or anything about the war, they are either talking about Harry or Lord Voldemort, who are both men.


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