The Bechdel test: Two named female characters have to have a conversation about something other than a man for the film to pass.  Question Who's Online | Find Members | Private Messages
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104,998 hits 2.3 (3 votes) Share Favorite | Flag 8 years ago by 314159

Does your favourite movie pass the Bechdel test?
The Bechdel test: Two named female characters have to have a conversation about something other than a man for the film to pass.


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8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 2:56:39 AM EST (GMT-5)
How is lack of interest an issue? Also let's say that there's a hypermasculine genre, instead of the rare movie. That means you've created an entire exploitation genre for a character type. Now, I enjoy some bad exploitation movies... but I understand that it's pretty fxcked up. I'll watch it. From Dolomite to Iron Sky, I swear I'll watch it and laugh and laugh.

But that does not make for provocative or interesting films. It makes for films of convention which are often about not thinking and having your values (whatever they may be) regurgitated back at you. That's why they make parodies that are as opposed to wet, referential parodies (Black Dynamite vs Airplane).

So pushing or shoehorning unnecessary minority integration isn't a way to change culture or a way to stand for a value, it's a way to make a quick, small, but high return ratio, profit.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 5:05:08 AM EST (GMT-5)
I don't think you have to go to some extreme to make a film work with some female characters in.

I thought The Descent was great, and it could have just as easily been a male cast. I don't think it's somehow had to compromise in making the characters female.

Besides, if most films just had a few women in central roles, this you'd never be able to show up such a disparity.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 5:55:30 AM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/18/13 - 9:05:07 PM birdsong4j wrote:
Um, what? Maybe because women aren't politically homogeneous. You betray your own sexist views by even suggesting this


Oh really? Are non-white people politically homogeneous?

In 1994 the non-whites of South Africa voted overwhelmingly for the ANC, primarily to ensure they would no longer be oppressed by the ruling whites.

Since in the following 20 years we have seen support for other parties growing, and indeed new parties forming, it's almost as if the South African non-white population united for a common cause, ending oppression.

Odd, that.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 9:40:05 AM EST (GMT-5)
re: the strong woman discussion earlier. Someone I follow on Twitter was having a good discussion about this yesterday.

She said that a lot of people mistake 'strong female character' to mean 'woman who is a warrior and does nothing but fight and look tough' and subsequently, any female character who dares have feelings or weaknesses or vulnerabilities is denigrated.

But that's not what the phrase means. It means 'women who are written as well as men are'. Female characters are allowed to fall in love and have moments of weakness and vulnerability as long as that's not the entirety of their purpose in the film.

If they're there to bang the male protagonist or play into his hero complex, then it's a terrible representation.

Basically, write women like people and not like plot devices.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 10:18:11 AM EST (GMT-5)
No, but that's not relevant, as there are no women in "2001: A space Odyssey", except for a stewardess and Kubrick's then 6yo daughter.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 12:57:56 PM EST (GMT-5)
What if your favorite movie doesn't have lead characters?
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 1:01:17 PM EST (GMT-5)
it doesn't specify lead characters
it's just any two female characters with a name

of course if it doesn't have any of those, it fails
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 1:17:58 PM EST (GMT-5)
I wonder how many screenwriters consider the Bechdel test and write in two named token females so they can have the required conversation about a subject other than men...
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 1:18:48 PM EST (GMT-5)
all of them, and then they all get cut in editing
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/19/13 - 2:52:30 PM EST (GMT-5)
On Thursday 12/19/13 - 9:40:05 AM Ongooshk wrote:
...But that's not what the phrase means. It means 'women who are written as well as men are'...


I think the assumption here is that make characters are somehow well written on average. This just isn't the case. Most writers will write characters to service a plot (especially side characters). Very few people write characters well consistently and through an entire story.

Movies give you a lot less time to establish a character than a novel in a lot of cases. Good writing is always in short supply.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 4:07:01 PM EST (GMT-5)
I saw a related article on Love Actually (which I think technically passes the test) the other day. None of the characters are particularly well developed, as the cast is so large, but the males in general have a lot more substance than the females do.

Link

It’s obviously a bit over the top, and I think the stuff on Emma Thompson and Laura Linney’s characters is a bit off, but a lot of the points are fair. It really doesn't matter who Kiera Knightly’s, Martine whatshername’s and Portuguese girl’s characters are like and what they want outside of being there to be ‘obtained’ by the male characters. Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson etc. aren't exactly deep, but they do better than that at least...
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 4:08:05 PM EST (GMT-5)
Like Ong said, it’s a bit tricky with rom-coms, even more so as their fanbase is usually mostly female too. As an extreme stance, I’ve seen people say that women shouldn’t like those kinds of films, or that doing so reflects some kind of being suckered in to thinking that kind of portrayal is acceptable. One of the reasons I stopped doing film studies way back when (aside from being overwhelmed by all the potential career paths), is that when you have dimensions of value in critical analysis type things, some people tend to mix it quite closely with what they like, i.e., I don’t like this individual film because it portrays females badly.

We can like things despite their flaws though of course, and as noted, the Bechdel test isn’t really diagnostic of too much. It’s still worth thinking about how individual films reflect these kinds of trends though.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 4:08:38 PM EST (GMT-5)
And for the record, some of my favourite films are the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight films, and I don’t think any of them pass the Bechdel test. Pretty strong female lead in my opinion though.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 4:41:31 PM EST (GMT-5)
Okay I love that movie (Love Actually), but hahahahahaha. This bitter lady at Jezebel really has a stick up her ass about it.
(It's not supposed to be realistic, it's supposed to make you believe in the power of love, which is obviously completely UNrealistic. )
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 5:16:01 PM EST (GMT-5)
Well, a big (and not necessarily bad) part of Jezebel's selling point is having a stick up their ass

I agree; I like Love Actually! I even like Andrew Lincoln's character (the guy who is in love with Kiera Knightly's character), even though if a friend described an encounter like that to me I'd probably advise that they call the police.

I also agree that it's not trying to be realistic, I think in some cases it might even be pushing towards self-aware, but maybe I'm giving the writer to much credit. It's not that films/writers go out of their way to portray the relative substance/value of male and female characters in a certain way, it's reciprocal with our culture and how writers have learned to portray characters (both in terms of what is successful, and in terms of their experience as mostly male writers in the industry).
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Friday 12/20/13 - 5:16:29 PM EST (GMT-5)

It comes back to what people have said in this thread; the value of the Bechdel test isn't too evaluate an individual film as good or bad, it's to note that even films we enjoy tend to reflect more general inequalities that we probably all agree aren't a good thing.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:09:02 AM EST (GMT-5)
On Saturday 12/14/13 - 10:48:24 AM Guilty_Spark wrote:
And how is Hollywood to blame for this? Where are the strong female leads in the real world?

I think limiting the definition of female leadership, or leadership in general, to politicians or CEO's is pretty narrow-minded.

While men still outnumber women as high-ranking politicians and top business leaders, that doesn't mean women don't play important leadership roles in other sectors of life.

A teacher can be a leader.
A community organizer can be a leader.
A mother can be a leader.

And if you want to extrapolate further, a strong female protagonist needn't be a leader of any particular group of people. What would make her strong, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, is if she is the leader of her own life.

I don't think one needs to own a corporation to fit this definition.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:18:07 AM EST (GMT-5)
Also, am I the only one who feels like having multiple women being leaders of different countries at the same time is enormous progress? Even though its still a clear minority, we've come a long way from women not even being able to own property or vote. Considering historical trends and the gradualism of change, I would say it's noteworthy and the accomplishments of these women shouldn't be dismissed at all.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:34:44 AM EST (GMT-5)
Except, you know, the only times in history where women don't have a reasonable opportunity for power are in democratic governments. In governments where blood determines the ruler, we've had numerous women in chief positions of power, including heads of state, and women are more likely to shave shared duties with men being the figurehead while both parties do a significant amount of the work.

Only counting governments from the past 250 years in an analysis doesn't allow for the comparative strengths and weaknesses of your system.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 6:22:37 AM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:09:02 AM BlackBird77 wrote:
A teacher can be a leader. A community organizer can be a leader. A mother can be a leader.


Of what? A classroom? A group of people with too much free time? Her own offspring?

Keep reaching for those stars...
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 6:23:56 AM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:18:07 AM BlackBird77 wrote:
Also, am I the only one who feels like having multiple women being leaders of different countries at the same time is enormous progress?


Compared to a century ago, certainly.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 3:34:52 PM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:09:02 AM BlackBird77 wrote:
A teacher can be a leader. A community organizer can be a leader. A mother can be a leader.
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 6:22:37 AM Guilty_Spark wrote:
Of what? A classroom? A group of people with too much free time? Her own offspring? Keep reaching for those stars...


There are a hell of a lot movies about teachers and parents that there are about ceos.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 5:05:46 PM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 2:09:02 AM BlackBird77 wrote:
A teacher can be a leader. A community organizer can be a leader. A mother can be a leader.
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 6:22:37 AM Guilty_Spark wrote:
Of what? A classroom? A group of people with too much free time? Her own offspring? Keep reaching for those stars...

Why are none of those things important?

Also "people with too much free time" hahaha. Yeah, people who want to make a difference in their community and contribute to the well-being of those around them are really just people with "too much free time." Their efforts shouldn't be applauded AT ALL.

Seriously, all of these roles are important and play a part in maintaining a healthy society.

Good parents and good educators do more good for a world than most CEO's, I think. And the jobs themselves are challenging.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Wednesday 12/25/13 - 5:06:56 PM EST (GMT-5)
And you completely glossed over my point about strong female protagonists in general.

A strong protagonist doesn't need to be an official leader of any group or industry. That's not the sole manifestation of a strong personality. I think that's self-evident.
8 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Thursday 12/26/13 - 7:40:28 AM EST (GMT-5)
On Wednesday 12/25/13 - 5:06:56 PM BlackBird77 wrote:
And you completely glossed over my point about strong female protagonists in general. A strong protagonist doesn't need to be an official leader of any group or industry. That's not the sole manifestation of a strong personality. I think that's self-evident.


The only thing that's self evident is that you don't like the results of the example I gave so you want to shift the goalposts.

And no, 'community organisers' do NOT deserve the same kudos that a world leader deserves. Trying to compare the two is ridiculous and lends no weight to your arguments.

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