The Bechdel Test: What is it?

Virginia Wright, Staff Writer

The Bechdel Test is a very simple assessment that focuses on how females are represented in film. In order to pass, a movie needs to fulfill the three following criteria: (1) it has to include at least two women in it who (2) talk to one another, about (3) something other than men. This test was made famous by Alison Bechdel in a 1985 comic strip called The Rule.

Though this test may seem very minimal in its requirements, many movies still do not pass. Pretty much every movie completes the first requirement (notice that this rule only asks for two female roles, not leads). But as soon as we move on to the second rule, many movies immediately fail. Just a few of these failed movies consist of “Avatar” (2009), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “The Avengers” (2012), the “Star Wars” trilogy, and many more. The third and final rule probably knocks out the most films, including some recent ones from 2017 like “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Baby Driver”, and “The Emoji Movie”. There are definitely some movies that do pass all three of the criteria, but not nearly as much as there should be.

So, what’s the big deal with the Bechdel Test? This test is important because it weeds out what movies properly represent women in the media. We are at the point in film-making where instead of just asking “is this movie sexist?”, we should be asking “does this movie contribute to the equal representation of women in film?”. In most movies, the men always talk to each other as equals, whether they are enemies or allies. The fact that men can have a variety of significant conversations about their own individual goals, insights, etc. helps add depth to their characters or personal opinions.

But many females in movies only talk to men as a love interest or in attempt to help their male peers. Or when women are actually talking to other women, their conversations still revolve around men (usually in a romantic sense). This dynamic prevents women from being looked upon as deep or intellectual thinkers because they only seem to be thinking about or aiming to please the opposite gender and nothing else. Equal representation in movies should entail that women can have the same genuine conversations with each other just like they’re male peers. Not to say that females in movies can’t talk about men at all (that’s totally fine!), but that shouldn’t be all they think about.

So next time you watch a movie, make it take the Bechdel Test. It’s important that people are aware of how poorly represented women are in the media so that we can break the stereotype. We should support and promote the films that do fulfill these requirements so that women can be represented in a significant and equal way. Women should walk away from watching a movie feeling empowered to embrace their own individual opinions and personalities, regardless of what men think.