The Bechdel Test for women in movies

Discuss

179 Responses to “The Bechdel Test for women in movies”

  1. Brainspore says:

    I’ve disagreed with so many men and women on the same topics that sex is not a useful division for me (although it really never has been).

    That’s true the vast majority of the time for me as well, but there are a few topics where sex can be a useful predictor of how people will relate to a subject. For example, a person who has never had testicles will almost certainly relate to “Fight Club” differently than someone who has, simply because so much of the movie is balls-and-testosterone-themed. By the same token I will never be able to fully appreciate “The Vagina Monologues” in the same way that a woman could.

    • Gloria says:

      Fair enough.

      There was a discussion somewhere on the AV Club (I think?) on this same topic which I read recently, which is probably why I’m reacting to this so much. The special quality of Fight Club is that while parts of it are tightly one-sex-focused, its other themes are so broad — modern detachment in home and the workplace, consumerism, alienation stemming from oppressive gender roles and expectations, etc. It creates an interesting dynamic when people come together to discuss why they relate to it … they tend to agree and disagree, vehemently, at the same time.

  2. Brainspore says:

    Supposedly a film adaptation of “Y: The Last Man” is in the works. I wonder if Hollywood will figure out a way to script that in such a way that it fails the Bechdel test.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So how many films have asian men in a leading romantic role?

    How many films don’t make the fat man the butt of jokes?

    How many show a man who DOESN’T engage in violence at some point?

    How many show a black man who isn’t either a wise old sage for white folks or a hip-hop streetwise type?

    What films show a plain or even chubby woman as the romantic heroine?

    You might be able to come up with a handful but that is about it.

  4. Ugly Canuck says:

    My guess is that movies made before 1950 would show a different skew, as far as this test goes.
    Back then, women working outside of the home was rare, but women going to catch a movie while running errands during the day, while hubby was working, was not.
    After TV was introduced, the afternoon soap operas took over the afternoon-housewife demographic, and movies became more of a “couple’s night out”: even war movie posters of the 1950s showed a woman, always, in an attempt to make it more likely that wives would agree to hubby’s choice of which flick to see.

    When re-viewing my antique flicks I shall try to remember and apply this test, to see if my hypothesis is correct.

  5. Hagrid says:

    What’s interesting to me is that there are a few (but only a few) big blockbuster Hollywood movies that are feminist in the sense of having positive, strong female leads, but they still fail the Bechtel test.

    And example would be Terminator 1 and 2. Both are about strong female heroines. The first one doesn’t have 2 named women that interact (that I recall). In the second movie, there is one scene where Sarah Connor and Tarissa Dyson do interact, but they’re talking about men not understanding the power of creation, as opposed to destruction, and the Termintor (a “man”). So does that fail the Bechtel test?

    • Brainspore says:

      Sarah Connor becomes a strong, heroic character for the second film but she spends most of the first one as something that needs rescuing due to her valuable uterus, which is destined to bear the (male) savior of mankind. (She does get in a couple lines of dialogue with her female roommate, though.)

      • Hagrid says:

        Sarah Connor “needs rescuing” in the first movie? Did we watch the same film?

        • Brainspore says:

          Sarah Connor “needs rescuing” in the first movie?

          Yep, I’m pretty sure that was the basic premise of the entire film. Why else would Kyle Reese need to travel through time to protect/bone her? Yes, she ultimately kills the evil robot… after the hero has sacrificed his life to disable it.

          It’s also worth noting that it’s Michael Biehn’s name, not Linda Hamilton’s, that gets second billing after Schwarzenegger.

          • Hagrid says:

            OK, point taken about the original premise of Terminator, and the first half of the movie. But once Kyle Reese is dead, in a classic “Heroes Journey” moment, she evolves into a totally capable and kick-ass woman who defeats the Terminator all by herself — by the end of the movie, she has grown and doesn’t need rescuing anymore.

          • Hagrid says:

            It’s also worth noting that it’s Michael Biehn’s name, not Linda Hamilton’s, that gets second billing after Schwarzenegger.

            I think we can agree that was not fair to her… it really was her movie.

          • Brainspore says:

            I think we can agree that was not fair to her… it really was her movie.

            I respectfully disagree. “T2″ was her movie and the overall franchise owes a hell of a lot more to Hamilton than Biehn, but viewed in isolation the first “Terminator” gives Biehn more screen time, more dialogue and almost all the robot-fighting scenes.

        • Donald Petersen says:

          In the first movie? Do you suppose the movie would have been more than 10 minutes long if Kyle Reese hadn’t shown up to say “Come with me if you want to live?”

          By T2, however, girlfriend don’t need no help from the future. Young Johnny, however, is a different story.

  6. TNGMug says:

    It’s hard to see this as a women’s issues test, so much as a flatness of character test.

    And some of the movie posters I see in her little montage I had a couple of issues with weather or not those movies really do pass the test. Ghostbusters for one, I’m pretty sure Dana talks to Janine about her apartment being haunted.

    • alisong76 says:

      The sum total of Dana and Janine’s dialogue is along the lines of:

      Dana: This is the Ghostbusters, right?

      Janine: Yes it is. Can I help you?

      Then Venkman takes over. That’s it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it at all ironic that this video fails the Bechdel test? There’s only one woman in it and what’s her name?

  8. wylkyn says:

    I thought it a rather sad irony (perhaps intentional?) that her little commentary film doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. It would have been easy to add another woman to her video, introduce themselves by name, and then discuss movies. A nice little example of how to do things…

  9. Cheaplazymom says:

    I don’t even look at the Bechdel test as proof of sexism within the entertainment industry. (although one could easily make this argument) I am not outraged by the lack of women in films. But, at some point you scratch your head and say “whoa, look at that…there aren’t any women in this movie either!” The Bechdel test is just a simple barometer, like a ruler. It is fairly objective. It hardly seems like it requires an argument. The simple FACT is that there are LOTS of movies that have fewer than two female characters with names who talk to other women. We can play the same game with cats or dogs in films, or as Ugly points out MAO (!!!). These are fun exercises too. But in neither case are we talking about MORE THAN HALF OF THE POPULATION. WOMEN. Not women in wheelchairs, not lesbians, not women with short hair, not women over 40, not women over 115 lbs. Just plain ole any-variety women. Can’t we all agree that’s just kinda nuts?

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Sure is.
      I cannot leave this particular topic without a song for the long-suffering ladies of the world.
      They are the truly the fairer sex, IMHO.

      From John & Yoko, a long, long time ago:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=S5lMxWWK218

      The song starts after John’s explanation.

      Women is the n***** of the world…and writers and women are the n****** of Hollywood.

      Sigh.

  10. pg34 says:

    There’s an obvious reason for this — there are very few female film directors in the industry. Film directors will direct from their perspective, and that is virtually an insurmountable fact. Akira Kurosawa’s films pretty much all fail this test, but they are by no means bad films. He just directs and writes stories from his perspective — a male perspective. If we want more films that pass this test, then we simply need more female film directors.

  11. toxonix says:

    -The world needs moar Lt. Ellen Ripley.
    -I have found that more often than not, pairs of girls will talk about past or current boyfriends until you make them stop. They don’t like it when you do that. You can either walk away until the conversation gets more interesting, or tell them to stop doing it.
    -We keep telling girls to stop thinking about stupid men they’ve dated, relationships, having babies, weddings, fucking weddings, omg wtf weddings, and things that happened in the past. But they don’t. Or they are feminists who wish to obliterate their femininity. In this case they are just not pleasant to be around at all, because they are constantly defensive and at the same time trying to make all men feel unnecessary unless they are in complete servitude to a woman, or gay.

    It is not the purpose of a film or a book to provide positive role models for anyone. Some of the greatest films provide nothing but negative role models and stereotypes. Analysis of this kind is worthwhile as an observation, but I would hate to see any artist spend time worrying about this kind of thing.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Or they are feminists who wish to obliterate their femininity. In this case they are just not pleasant to be around at all, because they are constantly defensive and at the same time trying to make all men feel unnecessary unless they are in complete servitude to a woman, or gay.

      That says a lot about you and nothing about women.

  12. Anonymous says:

    what about gynoids and androids, i propose a bechdel test for robot equality.
    *note home alone, harry met sally… also fail to pass this test, shameful robo-sexism.

  13. Caroline says:

    Many romantic comedies fail the Bechdel test and are clearly not catering to men, nor are they (for the most part) about men.

    But they make men the center and entire purpose of the female characters’ lives. If a woman doesn’t talk to another woman about anything other than a man, during the entire movie, then the movie really is about men, even if the main character is a woman — because her entire life is about men.

    Another side of that is that the leads — which may be men — inevitably have more complex lives. Side characters, which may often be women, tend to be more one-note.

    I wonder how many of the movies that “fail” the test simply had male protagonists, and how many of the movies that pass the test simply had female protagonists. It makes perfect sense for a movie to focus on its protagonist, with the vast majority of conversations being about them in some way.

    And why is it that protagonists are more often men, and side characters more often women?

    And then there are movies that just aren’t about women, or even where the woman being treated casually is part of a point (the screenshot shows Fight Club, the example I’m thinking of).

    And why are there so many movies that just aren’t about women or treat women casually to make a point, and almost no movies that just aren’t about men or treat men casually to make a point?

    I guess the question is, is it a problem, or merely a difference? I strongly believe in equality in all forms, but does equality imply that societal gender roles have to be identical, in art as well as real life? I know this reeks of “separate but equal”, but can’t we celebrate our differences as much as we embrace our similarities?

    Are you seriously arguing that real life doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test? That it’s just normal for men to have conversations that aren’t with or about women, but it’s unrealistic to think that women would actually have conversations that aren’t with or about men?

    Because if you are, yeah. That reeks.

    • Anonymous says:

      If a woman doesn’t talk to another woman about anything other than a man, during the entire movie, then the movie really is about men, even if the main character is a woman — because her entire life is about men.

      I understand the point, but the way you’re saying this, you can have a romantic comedy which is really only about men and really only about women. More likely, it’s really only about romance.

      Romances are not good candidates for this test.

    • Gloria says:

      “And why is it that protagonists are more often men, and side characters more often women?”

      “And why are there so many movies that just aren’t about women or treat women casually to make a point, and almost no movies that just aren’t about men or treat men casually to make a point?”

      I don’t know. I think the (potential) causes for both those issues are so numerous and so complex in their depth and interaction that I can’t really address them myself, partly because of the sheer breadth of subject matter, but also because I don’t think I know enough to really say so intelligently. I agree and disagree with so many bits of so many people’s opinions on this particular issue that my comments would only be repetitious. So I’ve stayed away from it in my comments.

      All I point out in my first comment that the contrast in complexity/importance between lead and secondary characters is from the nature of the roles. A lead, by definition, gets more screen time, a bigger chunk of the narrative, and thus is more likely to be more nuanced. That one category tends to be more populated with one gender or another is not really within the purview of my comments.

      I think it’s well within a writer’s rights to be human when it comes to nurturing a lead over a side character. I pointed out this particular fallacy of the Bechedel test because it unfairly maligns some works.

      “And why are there so many movies that just aren’t about women or treat women casually to make a point, and almost no movies that just aren’t about men or treat men casually to make a point?”

      I don’t know, for the reasons I’ve listed above re: depth/complexity of the causes. But I do know that because someone else didn’t choose to make those non-existent movies you’re talking about, it doesn’t mean that a film like Fight Club can’t exist. I think it’s problematic to suggest that an individual work needs to suffer for its choices because a countering work doesn’t exist yet.

      And thank you for simply amalgamating my comments with others, and without attribution, thus making it more difficult for me to respond appropriately.

  14. UUbuntu says:

    Interesting test, but it has its limitations.

    For example,
    Casablanca: Fail
    Barb Wire: Pass

    Essentially, these are the same movie plotwise, but with one starring Humphrey Bogart, and the other starring Pamela Anderson. One I’ll watch many times, and one I’m embarrassed to have even seen once.

    This test may have some value, but anyone who would rather see Barb Wire instead of Casablanca should reconsider their moviegoing priorities.

  15. Tdawwg says:

    “80s lesbian cartoonist”? Fun Home came out in 2006, and is considered by many to be her masterpiece. DTWOF ran until 2008. I respectfully submit that she and her work have transcended the 1980s.

    • millrick says:

      “…she and her work have transcended the 1980s.”

      i wholeheartedly agree that Bechdel is a relevant author.
      just as her ‘Mo Movie Measure’ is, sadly, still a relevant test of Hollywood myopia

  16. Anonymous says:

    I just watched Wallender with Kenneth Branagh as a self-absorbed and somewhat useless (initially) detective. And I thought, no way would this fly with a woman in the lead role acting this way, just showing up at crime scenes to make sad faces indicating how crimes against others are affecting HIM. I think we really are trained to accept this as appropriate and interesting behavior for men.

  17. Tintinfan says:

    Okay, off the top of my head:

    Hannah and Her Sisters
    Gone With The Wind
    Terms Of Endearment
    Streetcar Named Desire

    What do these movies have in common? Issues of mothers and daughters and/or sibling rivalry (I know that’s a pretty lame distillation for “Streetcar” but you know what I mean).

    This certainly doesn’t disprove the theory, just to suggest that great movies have been made in Hollywood (and New York) which pass the test. And I think most people would say these are WILDLY differing movies.

    This brings up an interesting point – Some of the great world directors – Bergman, especially, created moviews with strong female relationships. Fellini..eh, not so much!

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Okay, off the top of my head: Hannah and Her Sisters Gone With The Wind Terms Of Endearment Streetcar Named Desire What do these movies have in common?

      They were all made at least 27 years ago.

  18. Tim says:

    Wow. I never realized how prevalent this is.

    I’m kind of sad to see things like the Lord of the Rings on there, but I’m not really surprised either. I agree with Lisa in that it’s just something I’d never really thought about.

  19. wylkyn says:

    Also, at the risk of being a logic Nazi, the second question in the Bechdel test is superfluous. If the third question is true, it can be assumed that the second question is true. They can’t talk to each other about something other than men if they don’t talk to each other at all. If the second question is false, then the third question must also be false. If they don’t talk to each other, then they obviously don’t talk to each other about men or anything else.

    So cut the Bechdel test down to two questions and save yourself some time.

    • Anonymous says:

      The idea of asking three questions is to differentiate partial failures. The jump from having a named woman to two or more named women having conversations not about men is very big, so the two named women check provides some middle ground and more analysis can be done.

      One thing this makes me wonder is whether it’s our expectations of women’s and men’s stories that are to blame. We tend to think of men as simpler, more solitary creatures, who can fit a compelling story about themselves into two hour or less time slot, and women as having more complex social lives that really need at least a mini-series to get anywhere.
      This also nudges towards another question that’s been touched on, how well gender identity of characters maps to the actor’s chromosomes. So, is it possible with reasonable to good expertise to make a unarguably female and feminine pair of main characters in a blockbuster who couldn’t be replaced by men(See the majority of action flick chicks), and an unarguably male and masculine character in a long series(my mental image here is the DS9 cast flipped, I think it works surprisingly well).

  20. Wassermelone says:

    To jump in before people start naming movies that either pass and still are sexist, or movies that fail and are not sexist (because both examples exist) – the idea is that this something that shows a trend across movies in general.

  21. Ugly Canuck says:

    Oh I get it…if it fails, we stop talking about the film with good conscience.
    A shut-off switch for the aesthetic mind, eh?

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Kind of like the early Christians…”Does this thing have any trace of Paganism? If yes, destroy it without further thought.”

    • Brainspore says:

      Oh I get it…if it fails, we stop talking about the film with good conscience.

      Who is saying that? Even the woman in the video says that the test isn’t any kind of indicator whether or not it’s a good movie.

      As many have stated the problem isn’t whether an individual film passes but that such a huge number don’t pass. Think of it this way:

      No minority actors in a 13th century period film set in medieval Europe = not a problem.

      No minority actors in 80% of recent studio films = What the fuck, Hollywood?

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        It’s still a whole lot better than how Hollywood used to depict minorities, I’m telling you.
        After all, until the 1960s, every script had to pass review by right-wing censors prior to going into production.
        All the films of any period are just flickering bullshit anyway, so why get hot about any of them?

        There are very good reasons black people aren’t big fans of “classic Hollywood films”.
        And there are very good reasons to simply ignore ALL cinema.
        Get out of the dark, and into the fresh air.

  22. knallboy says:

    What about “Lost in Translation”? I think it fails the Bechdel test. They are several women who do have names but the conversations between Charlotte and them are not signficant, imho. My conclusion is that the Bechdel test is not a good test. All movies with a female protagonist that is experiencing the world on her own fail the test.

    • pechnatunk says:

      “My conclusion is that the Bechdel test is not a good test. All movies with a female protagonist that is experiencing the world on her own fail the test.”

      I totally agree – I’ve worked on a film which does not not pass the test – though it is about a woman empowering herself from her routine life. It was written, directed and produced by women, yet doesn’t pass.

      I think the test – restricts an intelligent discussion and criticism of a film to 3 questions, instead of analyzing it as a whole – and taking into account the actual story and its portrayal in this media.

  23. Kyle H says:

    I’m sorry, but there is a major disconnect between the third prong of the Bechdel test and the movie industry “creating films and movies that cater to … men.”

    Many romantic comedies fail the Bechdel test and are clearly not catering to men, nor are they (for the most part) about men.

    Yet because there is “romance” at the center of the movie, it fails the test.

    Now you can (and clearly the Bechdel test does) argue that romantic comedies are somehow part of the larger problem with expressing feminist views in pop culture, but you can’t argue that the industry isn’t *catering* towards women with those sorts of films.

    • GrrrlRomeo says:

      ah, Kyle, I’m not sure if you’ve actually watched the romantic comedies you’re thinking of. But in every one I can think of, there are plenty of moments in which the women are talking to each other and not talking about men.

    • AirPillo says:

      I’d suspect the problem isn’t that they aren’t catering in that instance, but rather that it’s a very cynical catering.

      Even in a romantic plot, 3-dimensional characters can and should have more on their minds than a prospective date.

  24. Brainspore says:

    Interesting observation.

    I still think Fight Club is a bad example because the entire premise of the movie is an examination of manhood through a bunch of men doing manly stuff like beating the shit out of each other and blowing stuff up. Adding a strong female presence in that movie would be like adding gritty realism to the Care Bears.

  25. Gloria says:

    In essence, I agree with this test: it’s useful way more often than now. Too many movies have their token female characters thinly disguised as mains. And too many movies that feature female leads or a female-focused cast invariably talk about love or have a love plot, like it’s the only part of women’s lives.

    But it does fail sometimes. A lot of movies/TV shows that have women talking to each other about men/love often also feature male characters pretty much exclusively lamenting women/love. Plenty of comedies come to mind.

    Another side of that is that the leads — which may be men — inevitably have more complex lives. Side characters, which may often be women, tend to be more one-note.

    And then there are movies that just aren’t about women, or even where the woman being treated casually is part of a point (the screenshot shows Fight Club, the example I’m thinking of).

    I mean, look at the gay man: He’s inevitably the only gay person around, the confidante of the straight female lead, and rarely has a partner or his own life. He’s gay … but without the actual sex with men. Just the platonic, emotional safety, and shopping! Yay!

    • Brainspore says:

      Another side of that is that the leads — which may be men — inevitably have more complex lives. Side characters, which may often be women, tend to be more one-note.

      An interesting flipside of this trend is the Disney “Princess” movies. Forget about complex character development, how many people even remember most of the Princes’ names? (Hint: “Charming” isn’t a name.) Hell, the Beast didn’t even get a name.

    • Chocolatey Shatner says:

      He’s gay … but without the actual sex with men. Just the platonic, emotional safety, and shopping! Yay!

      Sounds shockingly like my life…

  26. nanite2000 says:

    My female flatmates also fail this test.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone suggest an example of a recent sexist movie?
    (regardless of the test)

  28. Caroline says:

    I don’t think toxonix actually knows any actual women.

    A selection of things I have talked to other women about in the past week that were unrelated to men:

    Research planning (science, math, coding)
    Our political principles
    Personal finances
    Our jobs, whether we enjoy them, whether we want to start doing something else
    TV shows and movies
    Pets
    Friendships, romances, or family relationships with other women
    Cars
    Beer
    Cell phones, computers, and TVs
    Books
    Logistical details of an upcoming move
    Personal health/medical issues
    Home improvement
    Gardening
    Food, cooking, and kitchen gadgets

    But of course, I’m one of those feminists trying to obliterate my femininity. /sarcasm

    Yes, of course we did also discuss friendships, romances, and family relationships with men. But my point is, in real life, that’s not all women talk about. We do have other interests as well.

    The Bechdel test doesn’t claim that women in movies should never talk about men — just that they should also talk about other things. Like in real life.

  29. Gloria says:

    Er, I left out a segue there that led to my last point: I was musing about a litmus test for gay men. Clearly.

  30. Anonymous says:

    The real question is “why aren’t movies that pass the test popular?”

    Movies cater to men because they make more money that way. The problem isn’t the movies, it’s the women that either:

    - see whatever their boyfriend/husband wants to see without question

    or

    - have no interest in real movies about women that would pass the test (unless it’s about fashion or weddings)

    Truth is, dedicated film buffs and film fans – the people give the most money to Hollywood – are men.

  31. MatanArie says:

    Star Trek (2009) passes!
    Of course the conversation takes place when both female characters are in their underwear, but still.

    • alisong76 says:

      The two women had the conversation so the male protagonist could eavesdrop and use the info to advance the plot. I’d call that a very dubious “pass”.

      • Felton says:

        Yeah, I was thinking the Star Trek movies might be exceptions, but they’re really not. The women don’t seem to talk to each other that much.

  32. Palefire says:

    Just for the sake of curiousity, of those movies that did pass the test, how many were successful?

    • Anonymous says:

      How do you define success? If people liked it or if it made a lot of money? Cause there’s a big difference.

      Hollywood is all garbage, but that’s where the money is.

  33. Amphigorey says:

    Several people have pointed this out, but apparently other people have missed it, because it keeps getting lost: The point of the Bechdel test isn’t to address whether any particular movie is or isn’t sexist. The point is that, in aggregate, movies portray male characters far more frequently than female characters.

    It’s the whole picture that we’re looking at, the whole picture that’s the problem, not any one movie.

  34. jere7my says:

    Most (straight) porn movies pass the Bechdel test, thanks to girl-girl scenes.

  35. nemofazer says:

    If you discounted men talking about women as well do you have any films left?

  36. Anonymous says:

    Bit unfair to include The Shawshank Redemption when its set in a mens prison!

  37. Sagodjur says:

    The test isn’t necessarily relevant across all genres. If you have a romantic comedy that fails the test, it’s significant. If you have an action movie that fails the test, then it’s likely a decently successful action movie (as far as box office sales are concerned).

    What action movies would pass the test? You’d likely have to have a lead female character who talks to another female about blowing things up or the dangers of the job (which just serves to marginalize women into the “women with guns” role that still appeals primarily to male audiences). So I can think of the Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, and Aeon Flux as examples, and those could be perceived as sexist portrayals of women. So even if a movie passes the test, it can still be primarily about appealing to the male audience.

    • Brainspore says:

      What action movies would pass the test?

      They are few and far between but they’re out there. The relationship between Ripley and Newt in “Aliens” comes to mind. (Even the main nemesis in that movie was female!)

    • Gloria says:

      “So I can think of the Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, and Aeon Flux as examples, and those could be perceived as sexist portrayals of women.”

      I think the value of the Bechedel test is the basic things it asks for, and how it’s a very simple summary of how women can be made to seem more rounded — just giving a female character something other than men/love to talk or be concerned about already makes her seem more human and less one-note.

      Sexiness and romance can be and is definitely an important part of many women’s personalities, but it’s a part; the point is to show or at least hint at the diversity and complexity.

  38. Ugly Canuck says:

    I suppose it goes without saying that “The Boys In The Band” (1971) doesn’t make the cut, so to speak.
    IMDB info:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065488/

    Perhaps the suggested heuristic for discriminating between …well, what precisely does it purport to discriminate, between one film and another?…is a mite too simplistic for a complex topic like sex and cinema.
    Perhaps “male” characters in a film may portray- perhaps by their words alone – “females”, and vice-versa…after all, sexual identity is a matter of psychology as well as anatomy, no?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Sure. Why don’t we just go back to having men play all the roles as in Shakespeare’s age and before? If we’re going to pretend that the mass media portrayal of women isn’t demeaning and dismissive, we might as well complete the fantasy.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        The “mass media”, such as it NOW is, carries every message under the sun.
        I ignore the ones which demean and degrade anybody: I am NOT going to engage with that garbage, even to “fight it”.
        Funny thing about the media: if you ignore it, it WILL go away.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Oh another thing: the mass media’s portrayal of EVERYBODY is demeaning and degrading: the choice seems now to be between stupid movies, and aggressively stupid movies.
        Pull the plug on the stuff you do not like.
        There’s naught else that one can do.
        Fortunately, pulling the plug works at an individual level: and in fact, at the group level too, if enough “stay away” from the box office.

        • Ugly Canuck says:

          Oh wait not “everybody” gets degraded and demeaned: the mass media never fail to talk up their own “important” and “vital” role.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is less about whether one movie makes the cut or doesn’t, it’s what proportion of all movies pass and how many of the tests the failing movies fail. If significantly more films fail the Bechdel test than fail the male equivalent, either something’s going wrong in the industry or society in general.
      As I mentioned up in #92, maybe we’re just socially wired to think men are simple enough to deal with in two hours, but women need at least a mini-series. And yes, gender identity, gender relevance and chromosonal make-up of characters are issues. Perhaps any sufficiently nuanced character could naturally fit a female actor, any sufficiently simple one a male. Perhaps this could bhe tested by having am-dram re-enactments of film scenes gender-flipped to see if test audiences twig.

  39. imajication says:

    Interesting, though I’m uncomfortable with the idea that a movie catering to a men in necessarily a bad thing. True, the industry is overly skewed this way, but as a man I would like at least some movies catered towards me. Luckily, it looks like I won’t have to worry about this for a while.

    I’ll be the first to try to come up with some movies that DO pass the test:

    Alien
    Aliens
    Kill Bill
    Rachel’s Getting Married.
    Charlie’s Angels
    Coraline
    Watchmen (can’t remember, do they keep the scene’s where mother and daughter talk to each other about
    being superheroines?)
    Goodfellows (yeah, really)
    I’m guessing The Golden Compass
    Serenity
    Starship Troopers (kind of surprisingly)
    Showgirls! (Well, they talk about stripping)
    Silence of the Lambs (does talking about whether Hannible Lector is going to kill and eat you mean you’re talking about a man? I’m guessing they talked about other things too, but it’s got surprisingly little girl-girl conversation for a movie whose lead is a woman)
    X-men

    There, I’m spent.

    • the_headless_rabbit says:

      You are right about your list of movies that pass the test.

      ‘Watchmen’ really stuck out in my mind because it came up on her list of movies that don’t pass, and on your list of movies that do.

      Watchmen DOES have that scene with what’s-her-name and her mother talking about their past lives. They do talk about Eddy (The Comedian) for a bit, but they talk about lots of other stuff, too. So it does past the test, even though her video says it doesn’t.
      That kinda damages her credibility about the other films she accuses of failing the test.

      Also, For this test to have any significance, you’d have to run a similar test for men that appear in movies targeted towards females – do they have names, do they talk about anything other than women? and compare the results of both to see what real the difference is. (I’m not saying there isn’t one, their probably is, but without knowing the numbers for both sides, it’s an unfair comparison)

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the Watchmen theatrical release does not pass the test. All conversations between Silk Spectre 1 and Silk Spectre 2 (mother and daughter) are about Eddy. In the DVD extras though there are extra scenes where the two have a longer conversation. In addition there is also a “directors cut” and an “ultimate cut” which I think includes the longer mother/daughter in the narrative. I guess that all this quibbling over whether or not two characters one scene in an entire film did or did not say 2 lines to each other kinda proves whole the point of the Bechtel Test huh?

  40. xGvJx says:

    Well, I’m female, and my life fails this test most of the time. Not because I only talk about men with my girlfriends, but because I’m usually the only girl in the room. Maybe this is because I’ve seen too many films that are like that… In that case I guess this applies to several of my male friends as well, because I never get to do fun stuff like putting together furniture when they’re around. ;)

  41. Ugly Canuck says:

    I just don’t know about this whole exercise…it’s no different than if one had a test to ensure a minimum amount of Mao Tse-Tung Thought in any given picture.
    My belief: We ought not to be hampering artists with prior constraints. Of any kind.
    I mean, let them screw it up on their own.

    • Brainspore says:

      Again, who is saying there should be any such rules or constraints?

      Recognizing that Hollywood has a history of short-changing female characters is not the same as saying “every film should pass this test.”

      • Brainspore says:

        Formatting error on that last post there, sorry.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Then what is the point of the test?

        • Brainspore says:

          To make more people recognize the rut that the industry has become mired in and hopefully inspire more filmmakers to make movies that don’t reduce women to bit parts, of course.

          For someone with such a low opinion of the media it’s odd that you seem to be so worked up about someone else’s criticism of Hollywood.

    • Anonymous says:

      This reminds of the stuff covered here a while back about how tracking GDP or average income to gauge a country’s success becomes useless as soon as you start doing it. It’d certainly be easy to apply Bechdel band-aids to many films, just give a few roles that were written for men to women and have them talk.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Apparently some posters need this clarification:

    Movies fail rule 3 if, and only if, the named-women
    – either do NOT talk to each other
    – or talk to each other ONLY about a man (or several men).

  43. Jack says:

    I really like “The Bechdel Test” and think it’s valid. The thing that disturbs me is that in 2010 people are still trotting out the one or two movies that are an exception to that rule and saying “You see! No sexism!” Ummm, that’s like saying “Hey, I have one black friend! So I can’t be racist!”

    The reality is Hollywood is a very, very, very sexist place. And if you want to see any films with anyone other than heterosexual white men dealing with problems, you must turn to foreign (ie: non-U.S.) films or indie films. Simple as that.

    Oh and I hated Cyrus. The concept had so much potential but never seemed to for it. And for the first time ever I hated John C. Reilly in a role. All I kept on thinking watching him was how much better the film would have been with Bill Murray in it.

  44. EeyoreX says:

    Most modern slasher/horror flicks, from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre via Carrie and Silent Hill down to Hostel 2, would pass this test easily.

    I´m not sure what that proves.

    • Felton says:

      Heh! Yeah, I was looking at my collection to see what passes the test, and Evil Dead (only the first one) is one of the few.

      Also, I’m pretty sure these do: La Femme Nikita, 28 Days Later, Whale Rider, Ghost World, Star Trek: First Contact, and a few others from around the world and decades ago. This is out of a few hundred, so yes, point definitely taken. :-)

  45. cory says:

    Just saw Inception yesterday. May be Nolan’s finest work, and there’s stiff competition for that title.

    There’s been serious debate on the Internet about whether this movie passes the Bechdel test. If it doesn’t, well, you can forgive it after watching the above video.. I suspect the percentage of mainstream movies that pass the test falls into low single digits. You can advance the argument that it does pass the test literally. There are exactly two female characters with names, and they meet, and they talk, and they don’t talk directly about Cobb, the main character of the film. The debate is around whether that counts, since they are indirectly talking about him, and whether there was any subtextual interpretation that they were talking about themselves in some way. Also, one of the two characters might not be real, so there’s that problem.

  46. Anonymous says:

    But is it a valid test of anything?

    A more relevant test would be to just total up the number of male protagonists vs. female protagonists. I’m sure it’s skewed, but by how much?

    Unless a film is an ensemble type plot, then the protagonist will have most of the lines and/or almost everything said will refer back to him/her, at least touching upon their character (or else why is it in the movie?).

    That’s why the value of the above test seems questionable (and a little arbitrary in design).

    I’m no fan of Hollywood and ignore 90% of what comes out of there, but plenty of “women’s stories” get told. They get told a lot on TV (someplace the totals may skew the other direction). I don’t find women underserved.

    I find intelligent people drastically underserved by Hollywood, but that’s a different test…

    http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/

  47. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Adding a strong female presence in that movie would be like adding gritty realism to the Care Bears.

    Care Bears: Back in Action

  48. Anonymous says:

    there are many movies that have more than one women in them and have the women talking to each other about something other than a man…
    these are mainly reffered to as chick flicks and they cator to a strictly female audience.

    What im saying here is that it goes both ways, but if you look at the movies in this video that fail you “test” and compare them to the chick flick that come by the barrel fulls every year you will find one thing to be true, that both men and women can enjoy a good movie (like the ones you showed) and a chick flick ONLY cators to females, the only men in the audience are dragged there or homosexual (what ever your into, i’m not judging ya).

    That is the reason that things are the way they are, its money pure and simple. Why would anyone narrow down thier audience on purpose, i wouldn’t.

    to be clear, yes i am a man, but am only think of this in a business oriented mind set. Cash rules.

  49. Mitch says:

    “The Human Centipede” passes the Bechdel Test! I’m gonna whip up a big batch of miso soup and some hummus and have me a feminist movie watchin’ party!

  50. Anonymous says:

    It’s kinda funny Aliens 3 was in that line-up. It fails this test, yes (Sigourney Weaver is the only woman in the movie), but my god, could there be a more feminist role model than Ripley? She makes every male character look like Fay Wray.

    • SamSam says:

      It’s kinda funny Aliens 3 was in that line-up. It fails this test, yes (Sigourney Weaver is the only woman in the movie), but my god, could there be a more feminist role model than Ripley?

      Several people have been advancing variations on this line of reasoning, but it’s not the point.

      The point isn’t whether there are enough non-sexist female roles, or even whether there are enough female protagonists.

      The point is simply that most characters in movies — the everyday characters, the friend, the bartender, the soldier, whatever — are men. There are frequently exactly one or maybe two named women, and they are frequently there as “the woman.”

      The point is that in the real world, there are actually many more women around. They actually have lives and jobs and talk about more than men. So the point of the test is: why is Hollywood so skewed?

      It’s no different from only having one or two (stereotypical) token black people.

  51. Blue_Jaunte says:

    The fact that American Psycho does pass the test raises questions about what it really reveals.

    • Anonymous says:

      “The fact that American Psycho does pass the test raises questions about what it really reveals.”

      Again the test is NOT about revealing if a movie is sexist or feminist or even if its a watchable movie (let alone an actually good film). All the test does is see if there is a minimum level of female presence in the story. If a movie passes, after that you have to evaluate it to see if its sexism, feminist, well written etc etc.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        “All the test does is see if there is a minimum level of female presence in the story.”

        To what end? Minimum level of female presence…for what?

    • Anonymous says:

      Charlie’s Angels too.

  52. TheOceaneer says:

    While this is an amusing analysis of movies, it really says more about the movie-going public than those that makes movies — I specifically have beef with the narrator’s contention that the movie industry is not interested in telling stories about women.

    The movie industry is interested in one thing: money. Specifically, “big” movies are big because they are designed to make a LOT of money. My take-away from the video is that movies that pass the Bechdel Test do not make a lot of money. Thus, the movie-going public, as a whole, does not care for movies featuring two or more named women talking about something other than men.

    You know who DOES care about telling stories? Broke independent filmmakers. I could personally go and make a similar montage of independent, non-money making films that DO pass the Bechdel Test. You would not recognize most of them, and the sum of their box office would probably total the box office receipts of the FIRST movie in the video’s montage.

    • JohnnyOC says:

      Completely agree.

      Follow the money. Besides the outliers of something like Sex in the City (which even if it does pass the test, do you really want that to count?), Hollywood goes after the almighty dollar, and that dollar is male-dominated.

      As example of another industry that I’m in, look to the video game pantheon. Way, WAY, worse and I doubt any game, except for maybe Uncharted 2, since the Creative Director/Writer is a woman (Amy Henning who is amazing), can even get near to passing.

      • Manny says:

        Half-Life 2 is another game that passes the test. Alyx Vance and Judith Mossman are major characters and they have a lot of important dialog. Thinking more, Portal is a slippery case. I’d say it passes the Bechdel test in spirit, even though the protagonist is never named within the game (only the credits) and has no lines. (Now I’m trying to decide if the Companion Cube and the sentry guns are characters in that.)

  53. Lt DirtyFreq says:

    Can’t we just enjoy movies w/o worrying how many of what sex is in it or if someone is straight or gay? Just enjoy the film & stop worrying about politics. I’m a woman & don’t care what sex/gender is in what film.

    • Gloria says:

      Looking at this through a purely political lens is kind of misguided. A part of the concern here is about storytelling. Cliched or lazily written characters is not always in the service of a good story.

  54. urbanspaceman says:

    It’s probably been said a zillion times before, but until the movie industry ceases to be dominated by a handful of Hollywood studios, all of whom make nearly all of their films according to formally or informally standardized formulas, which have changed only slightly over the past 50 years, nothing’s gonna change.

  55. knoxblox says:

    I need a little clarification. Do they specifically have to be NOT talking about A man, or can they be talking about a direct by-product of the man’s behavior (example: he robbed a bank, and they’re talking about the bank robbery, not the man specifically)?

  56. RiktheViking says:

    No silent movie passes the test!

  57. cory says:

    I think Kill Bill satisfies the test in spirit as well as letter. Honestly, I’m not sure how you can see that movie and come away with a “sexist” interpretation of women. Complain about the ultraviolence if you want, but you can’t look at that and say “Gosh, I wish this movie didn’t employ so many feminine stereotypes.”

  58. JoshP says:

    Hrmm, this is an interesting tool, but outside hermeneutic application, can we use it for anything? I say this with respect for feminism as a male student of feminism. Melodrama, dynamic characterization, etc, all are points in modern film. We vote with our dollars, yes. But there is the flipside. I mean, Steel Magnolias?
    What really makes me wonder tho, do studios actually use the Bechtel themselves?

  59. Anonymous says:

    This is rather interesting. As a Nothern European I mostly watch Nothern European movies and I don’t think it is nearly as bad as in US made movies (or movies catering to USA, there are a lot of those made in Europe too).

    I have reacted to that US made movies usually have women that lack a more involved professional carrier, or if they have one, the whole point of the movie is that they sacrifice their carrier to take care of children (their own or others) or getting married. I can’t really think of any US made movie where the professional carrier of a women is portraited in a way that feels natural. As a Scandinavian male I feel that almost all women portrayed in US movies are to weak (in one way or another) to be attractive, which make all those movies where the whole plot revolve around the woman/women being sexually attrative to a man/men feel downright wrong (another sexual turnoff is that they all have fake teeth, hair and odd looking figures).

    But some of the difference between movies catering to Northern Europe and USA, is caused by movies made for Northern Europe has a slower pace and a deeper background story, which makes it more likely that women (or men) will talk to each other about something else than the opposite sex (or the main plot of the movie). When European movies (or books) is cut down (they always are if they are to be distributed in USA) or remade for an American audience, most of the interresting stuff disappear.

  60. meatbee says:

    I don’t understand this sort of rabblerousing around issues of corporate entertainment. Yes, there are fewer major studio films that speak to women. Another way of looking at it is that there are fewer attempts by studios to take money from women.

    The test is in the same vein as Kate Harding’s declaration of Twilight’s box office success as a ‘feminist triumph‘. …No, it’s a triumph for the film’s investors.

    Fighting for the right to be targeted by big business on an equal gender footing is silly. The test seems designed to activate the Outrage Button and nothing more.

  61. arikol says:

    This is a good point.

    But another, related question.
    How many films have lead roles which are really rather gender neutral?
    Ripley in Alien was originally supposed to be a guy, thankfully this changed (Weaver brought an extraordinary screen presence to the role). This kind of role still illustrates my point. Changing to a male actor would have only required changing the name from Ellen Ripley to Jim Ripley.

    As pointed out above, Fight Club is a really bad example because it is an exploration of the male psyche in a modern, metro-sexual world.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      How many films have lead roles which are really rather gender neutral?

      Well, honestly, more than one would think. There are a lot of movies (actioners in particular) wherein there’s no compelling reason for a character to be one gender or another. Think of your garden-variety Die Hard type flick. Would those movies have really been any more or less watchable if John McClane had been, say, Detective Claudia McClane instead? It might be tougher to imagine a woman saying “Yippie-ki-yay, motherf***er,” unless that woman is Sigourney Weaver, but that’s a failure of your imagination, not of the talent pool of women. You’re just not used to seeing women kick ass that way, because the film industry has a tendency to perpetuate stereotypes through its own laziness and lack of innovation.

      As has been mentioned above, we don’t see that many women in non-romantic, non-victim, non-chickflick roles for the simple reason that the roles are by default not written or directed that way. People didn’t line up to see Alien simply because it featured an unusually strong female lead in an action/horror movie. They went to see a badass action/horror movie with cool monsters that *happened* to have a strong female lead.

      That needs to happen more often.

      Y’know, one of my favorite movies is 1960′s Best Picture, “The Apartment.” I’ve always said that movie could easily be remade for a modern setting by simply updating some dialogue without changing any of the actual content. Even as it is, it *feels* like a movie that could have been written about 21st century office workers even more than mid-20th century ones. And there’s a definite reason why Lemmon’s and MacMurray’s characters are men, and MacLaine’s is a woman. But all those roles could be reversed, and in today’s world a version of the film could be made about a female-dominated company with a young male coffee-cart vendor taking the place of MacLaine’s elevator operator… and you know, I bet it would almost work.

      Hmm. But the suicide attempt sure would seem strange. Aw, never mind. Bad example.

    • Brainspore says:

      How many films have lead roles which are really rather gender neutral?

      Wall•E had a lead that was literally gender neutral, though obviously most people think of the genital-and-chromosome-free character as a “male.” Come to think of it that movie doesn’t really deserve to be on the list shown in that video, because if you exclude robots there aren’t any male characters that converse with each other either.

  62. Paul McEnery says:

    What the redoubtable Ms. Bechdel seems to overlook is that – to be simplistic about it – men dominate the movie-watching audience, while women dominate the (non-sport-related) TV-watching audience. We find the content of the two media reflects this audience bias.

    We also find that the majority of people are dumb, so the majority of movies are dumb. This also fails to surprise us.

    • Anonymous says:

      Men do not in fact dominate the movie going audience at least as to attendance at theaters and ticket sales!
      http://www.anomalousmaterial.com/movies/2010/03/mpaa-statistics-who-goes-to-the-movies/

      Women make up 55% of all ticket sales according to the MPAA, and 52% of the movie going audience.

      My theory: Girls and women get used to stories that aren’t about them and will go see movies like Fight Club or whatever. Men and boys are taught that “girl stuff” is boring and “less” and so they quickly chafe at films about women’s lives.

      Failure of the Bechdel test is an indicator of the larger problem, not the problem in and of itself.

  63. Anonymous says:

    i think the issue that makes this “test” little more than a curiosity has gone unremarked upon here: mainstream movies, those produced by large hollywood studios, are first and foremost a commercial enterprise. they need to realize tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, in ticket sales to be consider successful. while there have been movies that are exceptions, most reach those significant goals on the backs, or wallets, of teenage boys. or grown men who think like teenage boys. and who will go to see the same movie, with the themes and characters they are most comfortable with, multiple times. it’s been that way basically since tv pushed movies out of the most-popular-media consumption spot. it’s purely a pocket book decision. does that mean there’s an opportunity for a savvy business person to bankroll movies meant for the other 51 percent of the population? sure. but i don’t think you can blame a studio for choosing to make their money on the other 49 percent.

  64. naharnahekim says:

    Nut basterd,
    Through your posts I can see that you have not yet been introduced to the idea of privilege, it’s a really tough subject to swallow, but if you can get it down I think you’ll find it makes things a lot easier on you, and everyone else as well.

    Here’s a link to a primer on male privilege,
    although from what I skimmed in the article it’s pretty applicable to all types of privilege out there.
    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/faq-what-is-male-privilege/

    I’m not gonna lie, you’re gonna hate the shit out of this article. You’re gonna guffah, throw you’re hands up in the air, and scream a thousand different “nu-uh”s and “but whattabout!”s.

    I did a lot of that when I started dealing with my own privilege. When I began to admit to myself that there are benefits in my life that I have taken advantage of and didn’t earn, and that the world was largely built to cater to people like me at great cost to others.

    But I soon started noticing things. Little details of my life, environment and culture that I had seen a thousand times before jumped out at me, and I thought to myself “well that’s not OK, I think I’ll do something about that.”

    at the very least this new found knowledge will give you some newer, more interesting, and hopefully better intentioned things to be angry about. I know it did for me

  65. hershmire says:

    The Guardian just published a column on how Twilight is undoing feminism. I wonder if it failed the Bechdel Test.

  66. jen says:

    She accuses these movies of not addressing women enough but there are TONS and TONS of movies out there, many of them including a majority of women and some without many men at all: neither of which the video/test tries to address.
    Sure some movies lack women, but movies like Master and Commander or The Road wouldn’t be the great stories that they are (or accurate) if there were. The whole point to a movie is to tell a story, not to concern itself with meeting a quota, which would ruin the story (as many writers have encountered). I’m a woman & can see that this argument seems very one sided and even a little sexist towards men.
    Also, we could make a hundred of these tests all ranging from whatever you want to complain about whether it be how many times a black man is portrayed on screen with a gun and the reason being that he was an officer of the law or how about the # of times a geek is given the lead role in a movie and doesn’t get made fun of even once and/ or gets the girl. It all comes down to wording.
    A good movie should be about quality!
    *and on another tangent women don’t usually go to a movie to watch other XX chromosomes.

  67. Tynam says:

    AirPillo nails it. Actually, especially in a romantic plot, characters can and should have more on their minds than a prospective date. That they routinely don’t is a perfect example of the problem. Romance plot –> “chick flick” –> who cares if the characters have personalities.

    The throwaway thugs and hostages in “Die Hard” have deeper and more likeable personalities than anyone in the average hollywood romance release.

    To all those who’ve said “it’s about the money” – yes, that’s their excuse for why there’s no black lead characters too. “The audience won’t pay for it.” I’m the audience. And I can’t buy something you’re not selling.

    This is not a result of Hollywood’s chasing money. It’s a result of Hollywood’s perpetual cowardice about how it chases money. Whatever-we’ve-done-before always trumps actually-here’s-a-better-way-to-do-it in such a risk-averse industry.

  68. Anonymous says:

    The Devil Wears Prada
    Der Untergang
    Persepolis
    Saw III
    Scary Movie 3
    Orphan
    The Sound Of Music

    Interesting Failure:
    The Great Escape has no Women in it!

  69. Anonymous says:

    Ooh, I’ve got a groundless theory! Maybe it’s because so many screenwriters are male, and they avoid writing female characters because they know that they don’t know how women interact with one another?

  70. W. James Au says:

    The two most successful movies of all time, *Titanic* and *Avatar*, pass this test – Rose talks with her mom about their limited choices as women, and Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez talk about, well, Avatar stuff.

    For that matter, the *actual* biggest movie of all time, *Gone With the Wind*, passes the test too.

    • Anonymous says:

      “The two most successful movies of all time, *Titanic* and *Avatar*, pass this test – Rose talks with her mom about their limited choices as women, and Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez talk about, well, Avatar stuff.

      For that matter, the *actual* biggest movie of all time, *Gone With the Wind*, passes the test too.”

      Successful and biggest are relative terms. What you mean – I assume – is largest viewing audiences and/or financial return?

      I deem film successful if it’s really good. I’ve seen hundreds of films that are ‘more successful’ than those 3 titles by my definition. Titanic, for example, was tripe.

      I think quality has a big part in this discussion; and although a lot of the ‘Hollywood blockbusters’ fall into this supposedly sexist category; if you’re actually looking at quality cinema (admittedly some Hollywood films creep into this category too) then things get a lot more fair and balanced.

      The difference? Making a good piece of cinema and telling a great story VS making lots of money from under-educated cinema goers appeased by flashing lights and enforced stereotypes.

      Or: Well rounded minority VS Idiot majority

  71. Rayonic says:

    Putting aside the validity of the test for a moment, let’s assume that most movies marginalize women.

    Should we do anything about it? And who would “we” be in that context? You can’t force Hollywood to change its ways. The only way to game the system would be to make any “pro-women” movie a huge success, and starve any “anti-women” movie at the box office (and DVD sales, etc.).

    So basically, the only point of this test is to find a problem and complain about it.

  72. nutbastard says:

    Dear feminists,

    Gender equality isn’t having half of the Senate seats. It isn’t having half of the movies, or half of the jobs. It’s about the absence of preclusion from attempting to excel at anything you want to. Attempting doesn’t mean succeeding. You can’t have it both ways – a lack of discrimination against your gender also means a lack of special treatment for your gender. An even playing field doesn’t mean you win half the time and you lose half the time. It just means you can go out and try to play the game however you want.

    • naharnahekim says:

      “I’m not denying that there IS an imbalance, that much is plain as day.”

      Yes, yes you are. In fact in your very next sentence…

      “What I’m saying is nobody is stopping anyone *out of hand* from making the kinds of movies that would have multiple, interacting, plot relevant female characters.”

      Which would certainly be the case if your very first sentence was not true.

      There is an imbalance, and it does prevent people from making female characters in any kind fiction act like real women. I.E. Discuss something other than men.

      “The purpose of big Hollywood films is to make money, and Hollywood has come up with a few formulas for doing that, through trial and error, and it turns out what sells is sex and violence.”

      This is true, but rather than absolve film makers of blame for simply giving the people what they want, this fact only complicates the equation by adding another participant: the audience. So why do audiences not want to see realistic female characters? Partially because film makers tell audiences what they want, audiences do some telling as well, the whole relationship is very cyclical and confusing and really in the end it just means that there is as you say an imbalance. Which you illustrate fantastically in your next paragraph.

      “The few strong female characters that are revered are loved exactly because the fact that they are female isn’t a big deal, it isn’t some big message.”

      So female characters are OK as long as they act like men. That’s not sexist at all.
      Alright I’ll admit that was a little unfair, but not too unfair. Who says they need to be strong? I’d like to see a weak female character, or an inconsistent female character, or any sort of female character that bears a passing resemblance to a female I’d actually meet in real life.

      The point of the Bechdel Test is not to gauge the sexism of individual movies, it’s not even about movies in the end. It’s about pointing out that realistic female characters are sorely lacking in our culture.

      It points this out by setting the bar of acceptance so low as to seem ridiculously easy, but one soon finds that even many of those films that do pass get by only on the slimmest of technicalities. Doesn’t it strike you as unbelievably sad that in 100+ comments, people have only come up with ten or twenty movies that satisfy the needs of the test. What does that say about us as a culture? What does that say about our cultures view of women?

      “There IS a vehicle for female characters and it’s this: Stop acting like it’s such a big deal that the character is female and doing/saying whatever it is she’s doing/saying. It’s condescending to women to basically say, “wow, look at this, in fictionland, women can kick ass too! in make believe world, women are just as capable as men in daunting situations!”

      No doubt there are many “I’m every women” movies and moments, and they are very annoying. I’d like to propose an alternative thought. Perhaps, because we’ve all been trained to know women in story telling mainly as accessories to men, that any expression of real womanhood, of what it is like to be a real women (and how that experience is different than being a man, for better or worse)is seen as the overt womensploitation that you have expressed such a distaste for.

      The choice your giving women, by not allowing them to express their womanhood is the choice they already have, and it’s not a fair choice as we men do not hold ourselves to the same standard. Either act like a man, or be a prop for men to manipulate.

      “Look at the horrible sex in the city movies. they might be good if there wasn’t this constant “Yay women! Whooo! WE’RE WOMEN! look at us – women – doing THIS! Whooo girl power!”

      I completely disagree, sex in the city could never, ever be a good series, or movie no matter what tweaking happened. I’m dead serious here. I hate that fucking show soooo much.

      “How interesting would a movie be if men we’re just constantly doing that? “Yeah, we’re MEN! kick ass men! look how manly we remain in this stereotypically unfamiliar situation!”? Not at all.”

      Actually, that’s how most movies are, it’s difficult to see from your vantage point though.

      “Men react to this brand of feminism the way we do because the message is so completely fucked out.”

      Men don’t, you do, and it’s not because of the message, it’s because you’re afraid of change and losing your power.

    • Cheaplazymom says:

      Ok, Mr. Bastard,
      How exactly do you get from a bunch of people wracking their brains to come up with a handful of Hollywood movies that have TWO women with names and who talk– not 2 PRINCIPALS, not 2 movie stars, not a female protagonist, not a story about a BUNCH of women– just 2, as in one, two, to a rant about feminists thinking they should have HALF of everything just because they are MORE than Half of the global population. See this is EXACTLY the problem. Most people can’t even see the gender imbalance or acknowledge it– even when you give them a few simple questions to answer that proves it.

      • nutbastard says:

        I’m not denying that there IS an imbalance, that much is plain as day. What I’m saying is nobody is stopping anyone *out of hand* from making the kinds of movies that would have multiple, interacting, plot relevant female characters.

        The purpose of big Hollywood films is to make money, and Hollywood has come up with a few formulas for doing that, through trial and error, and it turns out what sells is sex and violence. The few strong female characters that are revered are loved exactly because the fact that they are female isn’t a big deal, it isn’t some big message. This is why Buffy is so loved, why Ripley is so loved. There IS a vehicle for female characters and it’s this: Stop acting like it’s such a big deal that the character is female and doing/saying whatever it is she’s doing/saying. It’s condescending to women to basically say, “wow, look at this, in fictionland, women can kick ass too! in make believe world, women are just as capable as men in daunting situations!” – the pervasive inferiority complex manifesting as this endless struggle to compare competent women to men and ‘prove’ how capable women are by beating the audience over the head with the fact that she is a woman! Look! WOMAN! a WOMAN is doing this! Wow! is what’s wrong. Men are not the benchmark. Interesting characters rest on their own merit, not on their gender.

        Look at the horrible sex in the city movies. they might be good if there wasn’t this constant “Yay women! Whooo! WE’RE WOMEN! look at us – women – doing THIS! Whooo girl power!”

        How interesting would a movie be if men we’re just constantly doing that? “Yeah, we’re MEN! kick ass men! look how manly we remain in this stereotypically unfamiliar situation!”? Not at all.

        Men react to this brand of feminism the way we do because the message is so completely fucked out. Stop making a point of saying and highlighting the fact that women are capable and go do it without putting giant red arrows and blinking lights all around it. Show capable women *for any other reason than to reiterate that women are capable*. We get it, we know it, it’s been said and shown a million times with the same condescending “betcha didn’t think a WOMAN could do THAT!” – yes, we did, and we could have enjoyed watching whatever it was she was doing if they’d have left out the giant, neon, blinking arrow sign that says “WOMAN!”.

    • dw_funk says:

      If all this is true, why aren’t half the senate seats filled by women? And why aren’t women more prevalent in film, or in professional careers, and so on? Your comment seems to come down to the assumption that we have a level playing field, and women just tend to lose.

      This just doesn’t make sense. I would agree that actual, in-your-face sexism is probably much lower than it has been at any time in the past, but it’s very much a part of our culture. It’s not like the powers that be are actively keeping women down, it’s the fact that our entire society begins with girls at a very young age being deliberately encouraged to follow a gender normative path.

      In many ways, the Bechdel Test reflects that inequality; in popular film, women are rarely portrayed outside the boundaries of the test. Of course, this is changing, and will continue to change as society becomes increasingly comfortable with gender-neutral roles. And, of course, I haven’t really studied this academically; it just seems logical that women really are given an unequal footing in our society.

      As a sidenote, I met Alison Bechdel last year when she gave a talk at my university, and she’s really an incredibly nice person. I ended up staying behind, very shyly, so I could shake her hand and just say how much a book like Fun Home meant to a guy like me.

      • nutbastard says:

        “it’s the fact that our entire society begins with girls at a very young age being deliberately encouraged to follow a gender normative path.”

        Then we truly are all equal, since society has always encouraged me to be the one to work the chain saw, change the tire, clean the gun and open the pickles.

        “it just seems logical that women really are given an unequal footing in our society.”

        I didn’t get my job because I’m a man, I got my job because I’m very good at it. Yes, there are going to always be discriminating assholes, but they’re spread pretty evenly. I’ve got long hair, lord knows that just a little more redneck in my current boss could have resulted in my not getting hired. C’est la vie. People discriminate all the time, consciously and subconsciously, for or against all kinds of qualities. If my boss had passed on me because of my hair, guess what? That’s not someone that I want to be working for in the first place. If a woman gets turned down from a job because she’s a woman, guess what? That’s totally wrong, but ultimately she’s saved from further injustices in the future. Is it fair? Hell no, who said it was going to be? Beyond that, it’s in no way something that’s happening to women and women alone. This is the nature of life at this point. It is the way it is, and it will slowly change over time, but for the time being, niggling over movies and such isn’t helping. You can either deal with the inherent unfairness of it all with dignity or you can find no end of things to complain about. I find the former to be a much more valuable use of time.

  73. hardwarejunkie9 says:

    I’ll second the point that applying the test to something like Fight Club is a moot point. Fight Club is post-modern masculinist lit. There’s irony in applying a feminist test to it because it is, itself, a reaction to feminism and the feeling among some men that they have no real identity as a gender. Of course the only woman in the story is sick and twisted, she’s supposed to be a representation and commentary on Jack’s inability to relate to other people

    • Gloria says:

      “Of course the only woman in the story is sick and twisted, she’s supposed to be a representation and commentary on Jack’s inability to relate to other people.”

      Really? I thought she had her own problems, but she actually seemed like one of the saner people, or ar least one of the few people in the story who didn’t seem obsessed with how she’s been treated by the rest of the world. Fight Club is a reaction to feminism, but I didn’t really see it as anti-feminist, ultimately.

      • Brainspore says:

        One of the things I find most interesting about “Fight Club” is how differently the men and women I know interpret the movie. Neither side is “wrong,” of course, but the fact that testicle-ownership is a major factor in how people view the film seems quite poetic.

        • Gloria says:

          Oh, no. I *know* I’m on the right side :P

          I’ve disagreed with so many men and women on the same topics that sex is not a useful division for me (although it really never has been). For a long time, the entire world has been split into *these* two groups for me: “more smart” (of which I’m a member, naturally) and “less smart.”

          (Tongue-in-cheek! Mostly. Sort of.)

  74. mkultra says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that failing this litmus test is a mark that the film is sexist or made for men. To the contrary, it may be that some women enjoy watching male characters more than they enjoy watching female characters do their stuff.

    For e.g., It would be hard to argue that the Twilight series is made for men, but does is pass the test? I don’t think so. To be fair, I don’t think Bella has any conversations with ANYONE that aren’t about her rival love interests to one degree or another.

    I suspect, though, that the reason for the disparity is market demographics more than anything else: It’s fairly easy to interest your average female in a film with a male lead, but it’s a good bit harder to get a lot of men to see a movie with a female lead. Fear of “chick flicks” and all that. That’s probably why female leads tend to be either hypersexualized or hyperviolent, to reassure the potential male audience that they won’t get bored.

    I guess the question is, is it a problem, or merely a difference? I strongly believe in equality in all forms, but does equality imply that societal gender roles have to be identical, in art as well as real life? I know this reeks of “separate but equal”, but can’t we celebrate our differences as much as we embrace our similarities? This is a serious question, and I don’t pretend to know the answer.

  75. nutbastard says:

    BTW I want to qualify my comment by saying I am a huge, huge fan of Buffy, a show that has awesome female characters but doesn’t make a big fuss about it – Buffy doesn’t kick ass ‘for a woman’, she kicks ass, period. To me, that’s the healthiest way of portraying female characters, just straight up, no concessions or special consideration for the gender, just matter-of-fact overcoming strife and tribulation.

  76. Tim says:

    I wonder how many porn films past this test.

    I mean, the girls have names, they talk to each other, and it’s not about a guy.

    And yes, Watchmen does past this test even though she says it doesn’t. Alien 3 is a bad example since one of the plot points of the movie is that Ripley is the only girl on the planet.

  77. jsj says:

    Wall-E fails – discard all the robot to robot interactions and you’re left with the captain (named), and the unnamed woman and man who fall in love.

    Alien, Aliens pass but not Alien3 (actually there should be an exemption for anything set in a man’s prison – let’s call it the Shawshank Exemption)

    Alien 4 is borderline (Winona Ryder was an android, Sigourney Weaver a human-alien hybrid).

    X-Men, X-Men 3 fail but not X-Men 2 (jean gray and ororo)

    Terminator passes (Sarah Connor and her flatmate arguably don’t talk about blokes). T2 fails – the scientist’s wife was unnamed. T3 passes if you count t-x as female.

    Kill Bill 1 passes, 2 fails (Kiddo and Elle talk only about Pai Mei as I recall, and Kiddo’s daughter isn’t named). All other Tarantino movies fail except Death Proof.

    Trainspotting – so close! ‘What you talking about?’ ‘Shopping’

    This is fun! Needs to be a website: amibechdelornot.com

  78. willy359 says:

    Not too sure about the list of movies this video cites as examples. Bit of a bias toward action flicks. Any movie where there’s an explosion or a weapon on the poster will not likely include a scene wherein two women have a meaningful conversation. In these movies, the men aren’t usually having meaningful conversations either.

    • Gloria says:

      Well, see, talking about anything other than the other sex doesn’t necessarily have to be “meaningful.” It’s just talking.

      Let’s take, say, an action movie with a female officer and a female soldier. They can spend the whole movie as that: officer and soldier. Barking orders, screaming in battle, spewing war cliches. The point is that they’re operating in their capacities as characters, positions, jobs.

      The same male characters in an identical type of movie are giving/receiving orders, talking about blowing stuff up, slaughtering aliens, etc. not because they’re *dudes.* They’re talking about that stuff because that’s the point of their characters; it’s what they do.

      But for some reason we assume commandos and soldiers blow aliens up because they have penises, not because they’re *people paid to blow their enemies up.*

  79. Cheaplazymom says:

    It really can’t be overstated. This is not about the CONTENT of the picture or the genre. It is just about how many women “characters” are in the film– not PRINCIPALS. In fact, I think many films would fail if you limited the test to one of the three categories. I would consider it progress if we could get some passes for the first two.

    How about we scratch our head another way. Come up with a movie that fails a reverse Bechdel test: A movie that doesn’t have at least 2 male characters with names who talk to each other about anything other than a girl. Anyone?

    @Ugly I agree! Early movies were full of women and their stories– Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Marion Davies. Hollywood used to be full of strong women– Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Barbara Stanwyk, Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball– they were producers as well as stars and the stories they told had a few women in them.

  80. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Funny thing about the media: if you ignore it, it WILL go away.

    If you live in the woods with no electricity. Or don’t have children.

    I can’t tell if you’re arguing that sexism in media doesn’t exist or that you don’t care that it exists or that pretending that it doesn’t exist is the same as it not existing. But I’m quite certain that I disagree with all of them.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      If they don’t make money selling it, they’ll stop.
      You yelling about the problem may result in fewer patrons: or it’ll just be more free publicity for Hollywood.
      I can only control my own actions…

  81. Anonymous says:

    Both Grindhouse movies (“Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”) pass the test.

  82. Anonymous says:

    Lifetime Test:

    1. Are men in it?
    2. Is there more than one man who is not a rapist, murderer, molester, stalker, spousal-abuser, thief, adulterer, bad-parent etc..?
    3. If #2 is yes, it’s not a Lifetime movie.

  83. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of “catering to men” at all. In modern economics, a person is a person is a person so long as that person is willing to part with some cash.

    What this test and its sad results actually show is that we—you, me, men, women—tend to expect male characters to be more compelling. They are the default, even in many movies marketed to women. Sure, it’s media-perpetuated, but there’s something far more pervasive at work.

  84. Anonymous says:

    Antonia’s Line, but that is Dutch, so probably doesn’t count here.

  85. Ugly Canuck says:

    There are many individual works of merit distributed by the mass media: what of White Oleander? Dolores Claiborne? Nine Women? Thirteen?
    Any of Gillian Anderson’s films?

    But if you want to talk “Hollywood as a whole”, which appears to be what this thread is after, then I stand by my “it’s all garbage” comment. The few gems are not worth the digging through the crap for. Others may feel differently: but I’m older then they are, I bet.

    By focusing on the “sins” of “blockbusters”, and by outright ignoring or downplaying the fine though lesser-well-known works made by, and/or about, and/or for women, over the past few decades, the picture created in this thread is not IMHO wholly accurate: it does not IMO accurately reflect what has been recently (and not-so-recently, too) done by individual film-makers, but rather reflects the limited nature of the films which the participants of this thread appear to have seen.

    Perhaps instead of trying to get Hollywood to “improve its portrayal of women”, it would be more useful to agitate for and once again attempt to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

    Ignorant and nasty people like ignorant and nasty films.
    Do we aim our barbs at Hollywood, or at that paying public?

  86. jfrancis says:

    drama = conflict

  87. Donald Petersen says:

    Yeah, like Brainspore said, it seems to me that the purpose of the Bechdel test is to get people who agree that there’s a problem busy on rectifying it. There might be studio executives who’ve simply never considered the idea that women are underrepresented as important characters outside the niche of stereotypical chick-flick roles. There are very likely many writers and directors who’ve long suspected that something was amiss, and who might now feel more motivated to help correct the imbalance.

    Not everyone in a position of power to change the situation is going to be committed to the status quo, you see.

  88. Barfman says:

    Winter’s Bone. Just won Sundance.

    Night on Earth. Gena Rowlands and Winona Ryder.

    The New World has some very good moments.

    The River. Beautiful movie.

    Ghost World. What happened to the girl who isn’t ScoJo?

  89. relaxwerejusttalking says:

    After a long comment thread, I’d say that it’s a thought-provoking test, and a lot of fun to dig through a mental database of films.

    @jibbles #63 – Way to find the data!

    I’d encourage more folks to check out bechdeltest.com, basically a wiki for this question that can get beyond the “this movie should or shouldn’t count”. They’ve got a searchable, commentable, database of over 1200 movies with commentary, and some clear statistics. The basic breakdown is the around 50% of films fail (or pass depending on your perspective). 10% fail at the first question. Take your comments and add to their database!
    As jibbles says, no reverse test data yet. If a movie fails both, then we’re talking either about non-human scenarios or romance obsessed plotline. What’s leftover (which would still likely be a substaintial proportion of films) is your set of flicks supporting the feminist reading. Maybe the folks at bechdeltest.com would add some database fields for the reverse/inverse test too?

  90. Anonymous says:

    I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie where there were “two women who have names talking to each other about something other than a man” THAT I ENJOYED. And I AM a woman. Some of those films? All-time favorites. Thoroughly enjoyed without even once considering (or, possibly, even caring) that there was some sort of gender inequality going on. But then, I’ve always been a tomboy. What women talk about usually bores me to tears. Sorry ladies, but the vast majority of women’s conversation falls into a few categories (eg, fashion, men, children, manufactured drama, complaining about gender [in]equality). Can it possibly be so difficult to put two women up on the screen and have them endure adventures that don’t revolve around romance? Trying to conceive? Being rescued from [evil villain|boring loneliness] by some hairy, man-scaped-but-emotionally-sensitive demi-god? Overcoming the odds and succeeding in a Man’s World? *YAWN*

    I’m willing to bet that somewhere in the machine that generates moving picture entertainment, there’s this scope thing: “What can we make that will appeal to the widest possible audience?” That scope thing assumes that men like action films and chicks like “women’s issues.” Where do they get those ideas from? Us.

  91. ichabodius says:

    Hmmmm…..Milk and 300 but no Leo and Lance? Something is amiss.

  92. Moriarty says:

    I agree with those who have said that on the level of individual movies, the bechdel test is meaningless. That would be a ridiculous requirement for “not sexist.” However, when you look at it statistically and see what proportion of movies actually pass, it is a lot more telling, though the reasons for it are not necessarily obvious.

    As a side note, one fun way to watch Fight Club is as a romantic comedy, where the obligatory obstacle in the way of true love is that Jack is insane.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Moriarty said it. This isn’t really an indictment of individual movies, it’s just indicative of the tendency for big Hollywood blockbusters to fail the test… and as such it serves more as an indictment of Hollywood in general, or our society’s moviegoing tastes that are fed and shaped by Hollywood.

      Jim Cameron seems to have a habit of making action movies wherein the Action Hero doesn’t really need to be one gender or the other, and in those situations Cameron always casts the role female because he finds it more interesting, possibly because so few action movies feature strong female heroes rather than damsels-in-distress or love interests. Neil Marshall’s “Descent” passes the test quite handily, and though his “Dog Soldiers” does not (since Megan has nobody to talk to but the male soldiers, and the only other obviously female character is torn in half five minutes into the movie having spoken to no-one but her husband), since Megan is no less tough, competent, and badass than any of the men, I’d say Marshall is largely working from a strongly feminist filmmaking viewpoint.

      I think my favorite all-guys movie is Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and the all-male cast lent it some additional tension due to the Antarctic isolation and paranoia. It looks like the upcoming prequel has several female cast members, so I look forward to seeing how that alters the dynamic.

  93. Ugly Canuck says:

    Sorry…not “Nine Women”, but “Nine Lives”, in my comment above… got the title wrong, it’s been a couple of years since I saw it.

    I suppose that with the flood of movies available for viewing, both old and new, it seems that the good ones are fewer and farther between.

    In the final analysis, you cannot legislate good taste ( and sexism, like racism, IMO is NEVER in good taste) – either on the artist, nor on the public.

    Education is the answer, I’m afraid, and if this “test” helps to do that, then good on it.

  94. Cheaplazymom says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. As an actress I am especially attuned to this. Forget about the main characters, many movies don’t have any female “under 5s” the small parts that are the bread and butter of many male actor’s careers. The test isn’t about whether or not the content of a movie is sexist– its much more basic than that. Is the world of the film inhabited by women? The answer 8 times out of 10 is NO. Women account for 51% of the population, so its just plain weird to have movie after movie with no women in it. The funny thing is my husband doesn’t see it– he’s totally blind to it. I say “Why weren’t there any women in that film?” and he says “There weren’t? yes there were!” But then he can’t remember any.

    Interestingly these dynamics are quite a bit different on TV/Cable. More women, more ensembles, more characters and more & more better stories. Btw, these decisions are not made by the ticket buying public. They are made by a bunch of people– writers, producers, directors who are just used to seeing movies without women, it feels normal to them. I doubt the audience would walk out of a film because it had 2 or more female characters in it. Its just a fallacy that women aren’t interesting or capable of action. This is just a habit that should be broken.

    • Anonymous says:

      Writers will write what they choose write, and directors will direct what they choose to correct. The key, here, is that most (popular and well paid) directors like directing movies that make piles of money. As another user pointed out above, there are numerous movies with strong female leads or where there are multiple females having conversations not about men, but they’re not popular.

      In fact, I’d dare to say that not even most women would watch those movies in place of, for example, a romantic comedy or The Notebook.

      At what point does it stop being oppressive sexism and start being self-induced sexism?

      • Cheaplazymom says:

        Yeah, blah, blah, blah. I am SO sick of this particular argument. the “Nobody wants to watch movies with women who talk and have names, if they did there would be a lot of them! Hollywood is in the business of making MONEY!!!! and movies with women in them SUCK and are BORING and NOBODY wants to watch them. GET OVER IT! It’s not sexism, its just business.” I have heard some variation on this theme for years.

        The other problem with your comment is that you can’t even IMAGINE a story with 2 women in it that have names and talk that is about anything other than a sappy romantic comedy or some tear jerker cancer film. And this my friend is the problem. Every day women doctors are saving lives and raising families and coaching little league, women are working in the CIA, the defense department and EVERY branch of the military. They are brokering shady real estate deals and developing media campaigns and writing best sellers and climbing mountains. There were even a bunch of women in the Department of Minerals Management taking bribes and sleeping with oil guys. So, spare me the “women are boring ” argument.

        It is true that more women producers and directors might even out the balance a bit. But it is notable that the first woman to win the academy award for directing, made a movie that doesn’t come close to passing the Bechtel test. Quick, how many women in THAT film? Um, one?

  95. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Movies cater to men because they make more money that way.

    Movies that cater to men make more money because there are more movies that cater to men. Maybe it’s from the time when men chose the movie because they were paying for the date. If you offer 9 bottles of orange juice for every one bottle of apple juice and put all your marketing budget into pushing OJ, it doesn’t mean that OJ is more popular than apple juice. It just means that the industry is stuck in a rut. Hollywood did quite well when Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were the star attractions.

    Can’t we just enjoy movies w/o worrying how many of what sex is in it or if someone is straight or gay?

    No. We can’t. What effect do you think it has on little girls when they see no positive role models? What effect do you think it has on gays and lesbians when we’re obliterated from popular culture or portrayed solely as stereotypes. What effect do you think it has on non-white people when they exist in popular culture solely as pimps or taco vendors?

    Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away? — Lt. Ellen Ripley

    • nutbastard says:

      “What effect do you think it has on little girls when they see no positive role models?”

      What effect do you think it has when a child’s life is already so devoid of positive role models that they even have to look to movies and tv for them?

      as a man, I don’t recall any positive male role models in film from my childhood. Butch Cassidy? Oh, murderous alcoholic outlaws, nice. The Princess Bride? We’ve got Wesley, a frigging Pirate, a Spanish swordsman out for revenge, an idiot bumbling giant, an impish kidnapper, a sociopath prince, a whiny little kid and a crotchety old grandpa. Aladdin is a thief, Ferris Beuller was a manipulative cheat, Sam Lowery was a doormat, Riggs was an trigger happy alcoholic womanizer and Danny Glover is too old for this shit. I grew up with Heston, Gibson, Schwarzenegger, Pitt, Sandler, Travolta, Willis, Defoe… the list goes on, and I didn’t grow up to be a gun toting, kidnapping, bank-robbing womanizer, so if ALL that saturation of violence and debauchery failed to corrupt me, even if there were positive male role models, what are the odds that they’d have succeeded in modifying my behavior any better than the violent, senseless movies that I was thoroughly ensconced in? Worse than simply an absence of positive role models, I was exposed almost exclusively to negative ones in fiction.

    • JohnnyOC says:

      “No. We can’t. What effect do you think it has on little girls when they see no positive role models?”

      I think that people might be getting a little sensitive about girls needed and finding role models in a very specific genre such as film.

      IMO, TV and other media have a much stronger influence on girls and kids in general than movies do nowadays and that it’s now being mitigated since it’s so much more persistent and prevalent. Watching a great role-model genre show such as Buffy for 7 seasons would be more influential than watching a tent-pole film like Iron Man.

      “What effect do you think it has on gays and lesbians when we’re obliterated from popular culture or portrayed solely as stereotypes.

      What effect do you think it has on non-white people when they exist in popular culture solely as pimps or taco vendors?”

      This is also like above. Culture is fragmenting so much and going “long tail” with everyone having the ability to customize their viewing/cultural information habits that we’re are just seeing the beginning of the influences of that cultural and technological shift.

      To say that movies still have such a huge influence going forward in our culture, I don’t know. I think it’s less and less.

      BUT, other genres, such as video games..heh, that’s a whole other can of worms. That’s even more marginalized.

  96. loonquawl says:

    The video features a single unnamed woman, monologuing…

  97. Anonymous says:

    I agree with relaxwerejusttalking.

    I’m not sure if I understood this correctly, but why does this woman use two different definitions of the Bechdel test?
    If you watch 0:05-0:11 and 0:33-0:46 you’ll see that she defines it twice with different meanings.

    Moreover you can go to bechdeltest.com and have a look at their stats. Why do 49.8% of all films that are listed on that website (not all movies ever made, but the more popular ones) pass the Bechdel test and we all feel offended?

    Don’t you realize how easily you have been manipulated?

  98. Skrud says:

    I think the Bechdel test is more complicated than it needs to be. I wonder how many of the movies that “fail” the test simply had male protagonists, and how many of the movies that pass the test simply had female protagonists.

    It makes perfect sense for a movie to focus on its protagonist, with the vast majority of conversations being about them in some way. So unless you have a female protagonist and one other female character for her to interact with, it’s unlikely a movie will pass the Bechdel test.

    Jeff Fecke has a great blog post about a “Reverse Bechdel Test” that provides an interesting interpretation of the test, describing failures of the test as a “lack of imagination” regarding secondary characters: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2008/10/03/the-reverse-bechdel-test/

  99. Tdawwg says:

    Bechdel Test Rule 4: “The accuracy of a given Bechdel Test in particular, and of the Bechdel Test as a whole, can be measured in direct proportion to the psychic resistance generated by said Bechdel Test.”

  100. ikkleste says:

    I guess the real realisation with this when you try to think about the opposite.
    How many films would fail the test were “does it two named men? talking to each other? about something except women?
    Most pass, there’s not many that fail. I’m guessing there’s not many fail.
    Sex in the City i guess? (i dunno i’ve not seen it), Amilie maybe, Jennifer’s body? I’m sure there’s more (obviously). But there’s a lot less male failures, than female ones.

    I wonder how it holds up in other media? Telly probably has a lot more female passes i guess. And probably a few more male fails. Literature too. But it’s probably the case that the bias is still masculine for both.

    Food for thought, certainly.

  101. Kurt says:

    Skrud, I was just thinking about reverse Bechdel test myself. That is, what movies:

    1) Have fewer than 2 named male characters.

    2) Or if they have more than 2 named male characters, the characters never talk to each other.

    3) Or if they do talk to each other, it’s about a woman.

  102. Donald Petersen says:

    I know this thread is winding down, but I was just listening to Airtalk on Pasadena’s NPR affiliate KPCC, and during the Filmweek segment, Variety critic Lael Loewenstein was speaking about how much she enjoyed “Salt,” the new Angelina Jolie actioner. What struck me was that Loewenstein, a woman and a film critic, went on at some length about how Jolie’s character was originally written to be a man, and that she (Loewenstein) couldn’t think of another female actress who could have pulled off this role.

    Now, I like Angelina Jolie as much as the next moviegoer, but I hardly think she’s irreplaceable, even as an action star. I mean, really? Loewenstein mentioned that Jolie makes a more credible action star than even Matt Damon in the Bourne films, and while that’s certainly a valid argument with which I happen to agree, I think that Loewenstein, a female critic who suffers such a paucity of imagination that she can’t think of a single actress who can inhabit an action role nearly as well as Jolie, is a critic who has drunk long and deeply from the institutional Kool-Aid fountain of Hollywood that brought the need for the Bechdel test into being in the first place.

  103. jibbles says:

    Yes, the reverse Bechdel test! I’m glad it was finally mentioned—it’s exactly what I came looking for in the comments. Somewhere in the link train above you can find some stats on the Bechdel test, which shows that (of the smallish sample of movies surveyed), half of films pass the test. Certainly far more than half of films have male protagonists, so at least some male-centered films are doing it right. It would be great to have comparable stats on the reverse Bechdel test, and maybe to cross-reference that with female protagonist frequency.

    Off-hand, I can’t think of many films that don’t feature two men who talk to each other about something other than a woman, and I can’t think of ANY films that don’t have two male characters. Even “Tears for Sale” passes on that count!

    • ikkleste says:

      “Off-hand, I can’t think of many films that don’t feature two men who talk to each other about something other than a woman, and I can’t think of ANY films that don’t have two male characters. Even “Tears for Sale” passes on that count!”

      I can think of a few… but they may not do the feminist cause much good…

Leave a Reply