Anyone heard of the Bechdel Test?

So I came across a lady’s blog the other day and she was touting The Bechdel Test regarding movies. Apparently, in order for a movie to pass a feminist muster, it must contain the following 3 qualities:[LIST]
*]It has to have at least two [named] women in it
*]Who talk to each other
*]About something besides a man
[/LIST]So do you know any women who go into movies and do head counts and checking off criteria about what they say and get mad if the movie doesn’t pass the test? And it seems a little bizarre to call a movie unfeminist if the 2+ female characters don’t happen talk to each other. Why is that criteria?

The Bechdel Test is moderately well known, at least on the internet. I am not sure that anyone gets mad if a given film fails the test, but it does enter into reviews of the movie.

Basically, the Bechdel Test is a pithy way of checking to see if the film treats women as full characters. A common complaint, at least among feminists, is that movies often portray women as nothing but the romantic interest of the male characters. Or that, perhaps, there is one token female character among an ensemble of male characters, a la Smurfette. (see Smurfette Principle )

I am careful of this test, because some movies about heterosexual male bonding might get complaints about sexism.

The Bechdel Test is NOT a measure of how “feminist” a movie is, a movie can be feminist and not pass the Bechdel Test, and plenty of antifeminist movies pass it. The Bechdel Test is a measure of female presence in movies.

TV Tropes explains the reasoning behind Bechdel Test:

Now, by limiting yourself to shows/movies that pass the test, you’d be cutting out a lot of otherwise-worthy entertainment; indeed, a fair number of top-notch works have legitimate reasons for including no women (e.g. ones set in a men’s prison or on a WWII military submarine or back when only men were on juries), or with no conversations at all, or having only one or two characters. You may even be cutting out a lot of works that have feminist themes. But that’s the point: the majority of fiction created today, for whatever reason, seems to think women aren’t worth portraying except in relation to men. Things have changed since the test was first formulated (the strip in which it was originally suggested was written in 1985), but Hollywood still needs to be prodded to put in someone other than The Chick.

Also note this part:

This is because the Bechdel Test is not meant to give a scorecard of a work’s overall level of feminism. It is entirely possible for a film to pass without having overt feminist themes — in fact, the original example of a movie that passes is Alien, which, while it has feminist subtexts, is mostly just a sci-fi/action/horror flick. A movie can easily pass the Bechdel Test and still be incredibly misogynistic. Conversely, it’s also possible for a story to fail the test and still be strongly feminist in other ways, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

(bolding theirs)

It seems like we just can’t go to movie just for the sake of enjoying a movie anymore.

They have to have a test, or make a social statement, or whatever. What ever happened to the good old-fashioned romance or musical? Where you could just sit and enjoy a couple of hours of pure fantasy and romance and come out smiling? And popcorn wasn’t 5 bucks a box.:wink:

Anyone knows similar Test For Men ?

Why do a head count + whether or not 2 women talk + if they talk about men if it’s only about "presence? The point is to determine some sort of “discrimination” is it not? So if a movie can be “pro-feminist” without passing the Bechdel Test, then they should revise the criteria, should they not?

For instance, that bechdeltest website links to this article describing the rule. The blogger makes 2 strange assertions:
“Passing or failing the test has no bearing at all on whether a film is good…Passing the test does not necessarily make it more feminist, or otherwise, positive-for-women”
and then later she says:
“If you’re going to break Bechdel, you should have a very good excuse.”

It seems on the one hand, some of the feminist bechdel test supporters insist it is not a gauge of true feminism, and on the other hand - you better not fail the bechdel test!!

p.s. Do you know why they include in there that the women are not allowed to talk about men in the criteria? If you read many feminist blogs, they talk about men all the time, negatively, so I would think that point is moot.

That is more prevalent in the West than here in the Far East. :wink:

I developed a word count test for film titles to see what the subject matter is likely to be. It doesn’t work in every case, but it works fairly well.

  1. One word titles beginning with a definite article (“the”) - probably a horror movie: The Shining, The Exorcist, The Burning, The Grudge, etc.

  2. One word title without a definite article - Probably a science fiction film - Alien, Prometheus, Terminator, etc. (Unless the one word is a name - Rambo, Rudy, Fletch)

  3. Two word titles - most likely an action film where things blow up real good - Die Hard, Point Blank, Lethal Weapon, etc,

  4. More than two words indicates an increasing level of “literary” qualities with each additional word.

Yeah, the Didymus Test:

Two (2) male charaters
talk to each other for more than three (3) minutes
without mentioning sports, babes, drinking, work, or hobbies.

Btw, the clock doesn’t start until all hey-bro-ing, wazz-upping greeting rituals are concluded.

So basically, it’s more to do with male bonding? :slight_smile:

The point isn’t to “pass” the test, it’s more of a measuring tool. It’s a ruler or a yardstick. I recommend a read-through of this article:

thehathorlegacy.com/the-bechdel-test-its-not-about-passing/

For instance, that bechdeltest website links to this article describing the rule. The blogger makes 2 strange assertions:
“Passing or failing the test has no bearing at all on whether a film is good…Passing the test does not necessarily make it more feminist, or otherwise, positive-for-women”
and then later she says:
“If you’re going to break Bechdel, you should have a very good excuse.”

It seems on the one hand, some of the feminist bechdel test supporters insist it is not a gauge of true feminism, and on the other hand - you better not fail the bechdel test!!

That isn’t what she’s saying. She’s saying that if a film-maker or a producer who whoever doesn’t want to include well-rounded, three dimensional female characters in their media, they better have a good reason for it (ie. the all male military unit or the all male jury discussed in the example above).

p.s. Do you know why they include in there that the women are not allowed to talk about men in the criteria? If you read many feminist blogs, they talk about men all the time, negatively, so I would think that point is moot.

Hathor’s Legacy explains:

because so few movies and TV shows include multiple, developed, relevant women characters who have any part in advancing the story. Imagine how hard it would be to avoid a scene in which two named men chat about something other than women. Why do you suppose that is? Because virtually every movie and TV show contains multiple, developed, relevant male characters who have some part in advancing the story. See?

(bold theirs)

Since the Bechdel Test is made specifically for films and television, feminist blogs are beyond its scope. However, I’d assume that most blogs pass the test by virtue of having three dimensional people on its staff. I have a feminist blog, and sometimes I just want to post and say “Check out this cool video,” that has nothing at all to do with men. In any case, would you expect an anti-racist blog to not talk about white people? It’s kind of hard not to when relationships between white folks and POC is the very foundation of racism. It’s like trying to talk about elephants without mentioning their immense size and their trunks!

Movie reviews are as old as movies themselves. :shrug:

I wouldn’t make too much of the “test” word. The Bechdel Test is often called the Bechdel Rule or (reportedly) the Mo Movie Measure. It simply is a handy way of summarizing a complaint about many movies… that the female characters are under developed.

That is an interesting question. Romantic comedies are still a mainstay of Hollywood, although they sometimes are dismissed as “chick flicks.” Musicals… I dunno. They still get made (Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Mamma Mia! etc) but they definitely fell out of favor for awhile.

But the Bechdel Test, as I think we’ve established, doesn’t measure that. And that author specifically says the film must pass it or have a good excuse for why it didn’t. If the measure was “three dimensional female” characters, then you need something other than the Bechdel Test because that test doesn’t measure that very well, as we’ve seen. That is one of my points. The Bechdel test isn’t a “measuring tool” for what it claims to measure, as its own proponents admit.

The test tries to create a little way to “quantify” what is indicative of discrimination, but over and over, it doesn’t measure that at all. In fact, if you do some searching, numerous feminists say many pro-feminist movies (according to them) actually fail the test, and many anti-woman tests (according to them) pass the test). Trying to “quantify” discrimination by whether or not there are 2 characters that don’t talk about a certain topic is, if you don’t mind me saying, a very poor way to detect misogynist presentations. The test is gimmicky, but all but useless, it seems.

But it doesn’t measure that with much accuracy at all. Many movies with few characters, or ones where one woman is the star and is very developed will fail the test.

Oh sure, we shouldn’t take the Bechdel Test too seriously. It started off in a comic, after all.

It is simply one aspect of any film.

Yes if you answer noi to one or of the bechel test

Great ! :thumbsup:
I would take out work and put in money…

I like the Bechdel Test. Of course it’s not perfect (even as a bare minimum or litmus test); it’s pithy and sardonic and it originated in a webcomic. There’s all kinds of reasons a work could be excused from it: an artsy movie with no dialogue, a work with very few characters. But it is, in fact very useful.

It seems like we just can’t go to movie just for the sake of enjoying a movie anymore.

They have to have a test, or make a social statement, or whatever. What ever happened to the good old-fashioned romance or musical? Where you could just sit and enjoy a couple of hours of pure fantasy and romance and come out smiling? And popcorn wasn’t 5 bucks a box.

Oh come on. I don’t believe for a second that you or anyone else thinks movies, even movies that are just trying to be entertaining, shouldn’t be held to moral and social standards. What about a movie that casually glorifies fornication, or immodesty, or chauvinism? What about a TV show that casually mocks every seriously religious person on it? Should they be held to any kind of standard, or should we dismiss any criticisms of them as stodgy, unreasonable attacks on something that’s just trying to be fun? Should we refuse to identify problematic tendencies in media because “it’s just meant to be entertaining”?

TV shows and movies matter. They shape the viewer’s worldview. This is especially true of any movie that’s “just meant to be entertaining,” because such movies influence people when their guard is down, when they think they’re just kicking back and relaxing and have nothing to worry about. If every TV show I watch consistently portrays religious people as nothing but self-righteous hypocrites, I start to think religious people tend to be self-righteous hypocrites. If every TV show I watch casually glorifies fornication, I start to think fornication is, if not moral, at least “normal.” And if every TV show I watch has strong, three-dimensional male characters alongside female characters with little going on besides their relationships with men, I start to think in a subtly and insidiously biased way about men and women.

These things matter. It would be wrong of us to ignore them. No one here is saying that every movie must didactically preach gender equality. That would be awful, and that’s not what the Bechdel Test is saying. No one’s saying that every movie must pass the test, or that you’re a terrible person if you watch and enjoy a movie that fails it. But it is, in fact, troubling that so many movies and shows can’t meet this simple standard.

Do you know why they include in there that the women are not allowed to talk about men in the criteria? If you read many feminist blogs, they talk about men all the time, negatively, so I would think that point is moot.

The whole point of the test is that the most common way movies and other media fail to treat women as full characters is by essentially defining them by their relationship with men. And I don’t just mean romantically, either. Maybe the female character is the male character’s mother. Maybe she’s just friends with all the men on the show. Maybe she’s the boss or employee of a male character. The point is, does she ever interact with other women, or does she only ever interact with the men? Does she ever talk about things other than the men in her life and how she relates to them? Often, the answer is no. So her whole character is her relationship with men.

Seriously, if you don’t think this is a real problem, try applying the test to men rather than women. Just try and think of a single movie or show in which two men never have a conversation about something other than women. Virtually every movie and show features that regularly. The clear message: the men in these shows have character traits and flaws and struggles totally unrelated to women. But there are plenty of shows in which every single character trait or flaw or struggle a female character has is wrapped up in her relationship with men, as evidenced by the fact that never once does she talk to another women about something other than men. That, right there, is the fundamental problem: men always pass the Bechdel test. Women fail it shockingly often. The problem is the general trend for movies and TV shows to fail the test; every movie that fails it isn’t necessarily bad.

I think this avoids what I said about many feminist blogs talking about men, and how that in itself doesn’t degrade women, even according to their own standards. In other words, the originator tried to come up with a criteria that demonstrates discrimination, but its criteria doesn’t equate to discrimination. If more than one well-portrayed women in a film don’t speak to each other, it fails the test. If one strong woman shines among men in a movie, it fails. Rather than simply trying to see if a film treats women appropriately, the test creates arbitrary criteria to try to “quanitify” something that doesn’t equate to discrimination.

Just try and think of a single movie or show in which two men never have a conversation about something other than women. Virtually every movie and show features that regularly.

Not really, if you watch many of the popular literature movies like Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre which pretty much has 2 male characters as I recall who don’t speak to each other and focus on the girl anyway (which doesn’t make it bad, it’s just what the movie’s about). Or the modern versions of said films like Bridgett Jones. Or I surmise what you see on Lifetime or Oxygen channel which focuses on relationships, or episodes of sex and the city, etc… I mean if the show is about relationships, then it’s going to talk about men, and that doesn’t make it anti-woman. Rather, I see a test whose own proponents admit that it is not an accurate gauge of favorable female portrayals in movies.

Let me reprint what Bechdel supporter Emily Monoghan wrote:Passing or failing the test has no bearing at all on whether a film is good…Passing the test does not necessarily make it more feminist, or otherwise, positive-for-women

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