Bechdel Test

All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell applies the simple, ever-relevant Bechdel Test to a number of high profile movies… 

The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing - a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter.

Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film. In fact, the example Bechdel gave as a film that passed the test was Alien, simply because Ripley and Lambert have a brief conversation about the alien. (Let’s ignore the fact that the alien was a walking penis-monster, as this was before the Xenomorphs had established sexes - the Queens weren’t introduced until 1986′s Aliens.)

But it’s still surprising to find out that some of the most popular films of all time fail the test, and often for reasons you may have never considered.

10. The Social Network


Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies spend two hours screwing over each other and everyone else around them in pursuit of Facebook billions, apparently in an attempt to prove that nerds can’t have friends.

Why it fails the test:

None of the women in the movie ever talk to each other. In fact, they’re kinda just flat characters who the male characters ignore or bang in bathrooms when it’s dramatically appropriate. Aaron Sorkin, the film’s writer, actually commented on the lack of three-dimensional female characters in an interview with Stephen Colbert, saying that the women are “prizes”. Aw, Sorkin, you charmer, you.


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