The Bechdel Test


One of the many criticisms I’ve seen of Interstellar, mostly on social media, is that its depiction of the future is too white, racially. Never mind the Africa-American school principal or the African-American scientist among the four-person mission through space, I guess. What would be the right number of non-white characters for a movie like this? I will admit that it’s strange how absent David Gyasi is from the trailers, but we don’t really see much of fellow crew member Wes Bentley either. There will always be someone to complain about something, of course, and while representation of minorities continues to be an issue in Hollywood, it’s difficult to imagine a solution that will please everyone all time time. Take, for instance, the Bechdel Test, which has become a pretty big deal for an idea originating in an indie LGBT comic strip almost 30 years ago. Debates are frequent about whether or not the test is a proper measure of a movie’s representation of women. We took the test to task a while back with our list of 10 Famous Films That Surprisingly Failed the Bechdel Test, the top title being the female-character-driven Run Lola Run. And besides the argument that there are empowering movies for women that fail the test, further discussion in response to the test showed in our comments section. What about Asian-American representation? Or Latinos?


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Alison Bechdel

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 […]


Maria Hill

To turn a phrase from my favorite family of Northerners, “Summer is Coming.” And by coming, I mean today. After waiting what felt like an eternal Westeros winter, Marvel Studios will finally reward us with the release of Joss Whedon’s take on The Avengers. If you haven’t already, take a moment to read our review of the film, re-watch the trailers, and then meet me back here for some fireworks and sno-cones. People have been saying for weeks now that the film is pretty great, and thankfully that is true. Whedon built a rich world for these Marvel characters; putting so much detail into their stories and their lives that it’s virtually impossible not to get wrapped up in the battle trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wages with his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the rest of the Avengers gang. But there is one surprising element lacking from The Avengers—pivotal women sharing scenes. Shocking considering Whedon has always been an advocate for female role models and has fought TV and film studios for years over the way he prefers to portray women in his cannon. Yes, he had huge pressure on his shoulders to craft a stellar superhero film, but of all the things Whedon could have done wrong why did he have to separate his two major women characters from each other? It’s a bit troubling to say the least.


Julia Stiles in The Bell Jar

Poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel (which she wrote under a pen name) is a tragic descent into depression that stands as a parallel to the author’s own life. It would be an excruciating subject matter to explore. In fact, Plath committed suicide just after the first print run. However, Julia Stiles is staring that psychological pressure down by signing on to produce and star in The Bell Jar. By starring, she’ll take on the role of Esther Greenwood, and she’ll be joined by Virginia Madsen who will play Dr. Nolan – the female therapist Greenwood sees after unsuccessful sessions with a male psychiatrist. Nicole Kassell (who directed The Woodsman and is directing a movie where Whoopi Goldberg plays God) will be directing. There’s no way that this thing doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. [IndieWire]

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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