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Thread: Examining The Bechdel Movie Test

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    Senior Member Spartan26's Avatar
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    Examining The Bechdel Movie Test

    A few days ago, I saw a video about something I hadn't considered in prolly a good 20 years, The Bechdel Movie Test. The origin itself is unscientific but it does present an interesting litmus test. At least, something to consider, especially in regards to media shaping or affirming people's perception of society, gender roles, acceptance and importance.

    The requirements are simple. Does the film feature 3 things:

    1. Have at least two female characters who are named (waitress #2 or woman at the bar won't count)
    2. Do the women talk to each other
    3. Do the women talk to each other about something other than a man

    You can see by this video, a lot of prominent, high budget, high grossing films Don't pass.



    While I wouldn't say that this is a standard that has to be leveled across all films, the number of films that don't pass this test should be a mark of shame worth avoiding. Mainly because it's an easy fix. All it would take would be a development exec or producer or director or script doctor to ask "why can't this judge/doctor/cop/classmate/hitman/etc be a woman?"

    There's the potential backlash of people fighting anything that's sends off a whiff of anything PC but it fits right in line with other questions that are raised about cost and development, (e.g. Can you combine these three characters down to one? Can we set this hotel room instead of a nightclub? Can we cut 3-5 pages out of the 2nd act? etc). I saw this article where a former UCLA film student talks about the sexist nature of Hollywood and how it refuses to change. Her experiences are her own. I don't know if how many female filmmakers share her perception or experienced the same opposition. There are so many people who leave Hollywood in a huff and then want to declare their 1st person account as proof of industry wide malfeasance. But I can attest to some of what she said is being taught both directly and indirectly. (which I can jump into later if this threads).

    For now, I wanted to know if some of your personal favorites pass the Bechdel Test? If not, would changing the film to meet these requirements ruin or compromise the integrity of the film? Having learned of the Bechdal Test, how likely do you think you'd be apt to notice if a film does or doesn't pass? Finally, in assessing a film for quality, how much do you think the characterization of women play in your review? Maybe not the best wording but it could be as simple as thinking "wow, they really wasted Jodie Foster in that film." or "I was hoping they would've had more Gemma Arterton in it." Those types of things. Basically, were the women memorable?

  2. #2
    Senior Member skip's Avatar
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    Winter's Bone was the first film I thought of.

    Maybe #3 should be changed to "Do the women talk to each other about something other than a man/children/family?" That would be even more restrictive, though.
    Last edited by skip; 04-12-2014 at 07:30 PM.
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    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    most of these aren't movies but whatever. my cartoons!
    ghost in the shell - it's been a long time, but I think this might actually not pass, since there just isn't anyone for Motoko to talk to who is a woman.
    kill la kill - passes with flying colours. I was actually worried because she's so obsessed with finding out who killed her dad, but it gets more complicated eventually.
    madoka - passes. the only non-female character of note is Kyubei
    steins;gate - I think this passes. (Also gets kudos for having an obese character who matters and isn't terrible.)
    spirited away - passes
    mushi-shi - this might not pass, since the focus is pretty stuck on the male main character.
    monster - probably doesn't pass, for the same reason as mushi-shi
    ouran high school host club - does it count if they think she's a man?
    cowboy bebop - I think this passes. Faye and Ed talk occasionally. It might never not be about a man though.
    spice and wolf - fails all three, haha. but it's a romance and there are only 2 characters that matter.
    log horizon - passes, although surprisingly little given the number of important female characters, and it's kind of disappointing that they almost all crush on the (male) main character at some point (the only one I can think of who doesn't is the bard, and that's only because she pairs up with someone else).
    maoyuu - passes and goes well beyond it with a strong, ambitious female character with compelling motivations, who eventually succeeds in her goals
    tokyo magnitude 8.0 - passes. It's about kids trying to make their way home after an earthquake, so there's not really much room for analysis here. Yeah, the person who takes care of them is a woman (nurturer typecast) but the characters are well-developed enough.
    zetsubou-sensei - passes. Too meta to really evaluate the feminist value of such though.
    garden of sinners - passes. This miniseries is just fantastic in so many ways. I also really like Touko as a character, hence the avatar.
    baccano! - maybe. there are a lot of named female characters, but I don't recall any specific instances of two of them talking about something other than a man. Ennis deserves special mention for overcoming male dominance, though - even if it was kinda for the sake of another, different man.
    tower of god - passes. The princesses' rivalry is definitely due to the influence of the king, but I think it's sufficient to be its own thing. There are a few instances of weird sexist comments, but they are always made by screwball characters who clearly have something wrong with them, so it's kind of lampshaded. Overall, both genders are well-represented.
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    creator kali's Avatar
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    Apparently none of the harry potter films pass the test except for one... that blows my mind.
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    Senior Member Spartan26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skip View Post
    Maybe #3 should be changed to "Do the women talk to each other about something other than a man/children/family?" That would be even more restrictive, though.
    That would still fit what I believe the author is trying to convey in a woman's identity revolving around her family. I need to look closer at some of the examples. I wonder if all of the Nightmare on Elm street movies pass. Generally have two women who talk to each other but it can be about Freddy Kruger. Probably not what she meant when she made the caveat about "talking about a man."

  6. #6
    I just watched gravity again last night and I don't think that passes. I don't think it's really a very useful test for looking at individual movies but it's interesting to note more widespread trends.

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    creator kali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pathogenetic_peripatetic View Post
    I just watched gravity again last night and I don't think that passes. I don't think it's really a very useful test for looking at individual movies but it's interesting to note more widespread trends.
    that movie has like 3 characters lol
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    Senior Member Senseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skip View Post
    Maybe #3 should be changed to "Do the women talk to each other about something other than a man/children/family?" That would be even more restrictive, though.
    This got me wondering how often I ever overhear women talking to each other about something other than these subjects. Not often is all I can say.

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    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    I think this is an eye opener, especially when you also apply the Bro Test(TM) and see almost all movies pass that.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan26 View Post
    That would still fit what I believe the author is trying to convey in a woman's identity revolving around her family.
    I don't think it's about a woman's identity revolving around her family. I think it's strictly about women existing in stories strictly to talk about and glamorize men.

    Talking about Freddy Krueger would be a failure in my book.

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