Developed in 1985 by Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test now an important feminist staple when it comes to Western media and pop culture derived from HollyWOOD– which is typically a man’s world. This eye opening test was conceived and published in Bechdel’s comic series called Dykes to Watch Out For in a strip entitled The Rule. For this reason, sometimes this test is also referred to as the Bechdel Rule.
Primarily applied to movies, the Bechdel Test is one of those rare anomalies– once it’s brought to your attention, it’s extremely hard to ignore. Unfortunately, after a closer examination, some of my all time favorite films and do not pass the Bechdel Test, and as a feminist this saddens me on a deeply personal level.
3 Requirements Needed to Pass the Bechdel Test:
1. A minimum of two named female characters must appear in the film.
2. They must converse at least once with one another.
3. One or more conversations must be about something other than men.
5 Favorite Films That Do Not Pass the Bechdel Test
1. Star Wars (1977)
2. The Lord of the Rings (2001)
3. The Fifth Element (1997)
4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (2011)
5 Favorite Films That Do Pass the Bechdel Test
1. Ghost World (2001)
2. Death Proof (2007)
3. Black Swan (2010)
4. Being John Malkovich (1999)
5. American Beauty (1999)
The Bechdel Test vs. Reality
If I had a female friend or girlfriend who either never spoke or never spoke about anything other than men, we wouldn’t be interacting for very long, I can tell you that much. That’d be an incredibly boring and yet simultaneously frustrating relationship. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
When discussing relationships and sex lives with my people, it is rarely so one-sided and male oriented. In fact, much of my conversations with my same-sex (female) that center around sex are more likely to be about hands-free masturbation, sex toys, lubes for all occasions and non-latex condoms than strictly revolving around the men who are or are not currently a part of their lives. You’ll find us drinking a craft brew discussing our newest glass dildo acquisitions or how amazing our new clitoral vibe pairs with Swiss Navy lube, way before you’ll hear us strictly spewing out a man’s narrative.
This is not to say that men are not a part of our lives, because they are and we are very happy to have it that way. Men are awesome. It’s the amount of intense focus on men in the media with the exclusion of women that is a problem, not men themselves. The Bechdel Test seeks to take down this self-serving phallacracy in film, which is not at all representative of my reality. The validity of the test isn’t hard to find, in my eyes, since so many mainstream films fit into this profile.
As a writer, I can’t help but wonder if writing for a character outside of your own gender may prove difficult for some. However, we are all people with a past, present and future and wants, needs and desires. So why would this be impossible? And, if it is, does that make them bad screenwriters?
Look at these wildly popular television series Golden Girls, Orange is the New Black and Sex in the City. While men are certainly discussed, the females have definitive personalities, goals and share a genuine interest in one another, aside from the male gaze. Then compare this to a show such as The Smurfs, with the lone Smurfette. Something just isn’t right. Surely the writers for OITNB are far more in tune with reality than those who wrote for The Smurfs.
Bechel Revised: The Mako Mori Test
Much backlash about the Bechdel Test has come since the release of the sci-fi click Pacific Rim, since this film doesn’t pass the test, and yet is was intended to be a feminist film. Case in point, the Mako Mori Test, named after a strong female lead in this film which didn’t have any other female characters (hence not meeting the requirement for the two or more female leads).This Mako Mori test rules are slightly different, but not any more forgiving, and they go a little something like this:
1) One or more female characters are present.
2) She has her own story.
3) Her story is not a supporting role for a male character’s story.
Of course, considering that the film cost over $200 million dollar to make and was considered to be a complete flop at the box office, making a mere $38 million in return for their investment, one can’t help but wonder if this new set of rules for defining feminist films was discreetly set into place by a clever marketing executive at Warner Bros. Note: even their name has bro in it.
Source: [Business Insider]