When I first heard of the test, I thought it must have been something contrived by a media think tank, or maybe a woman’s issues group of some sort (NOW, maybe?). But it turns out that the simple test actually came about when it was mentioned in the Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip, which was written by Alison Bechdel from 1983 to 2008 (hence the name Bechdel Test). It is in reference to a specific comic cell entitled “The Rule,” in which one of the comic’s main characters says she will only watch a movie if it fulfills three specific qualifications:
- The movie has to have a minimum of two women in it (more is fine, too; just no less than two)
- The two women have to actually talk to each other in the movie
- When they talk about something, it has to be about anything BUT a man
This test has since become a bit of a phenomenon, with feminists using it quite a bit to determine whether or not a film is female-friendly. And while you might think that the test is silly, and that it should be easy to meet these qualifications, the truth of the matter is that most movies fail this simple test.
If you’re a guy, you might not really get this; my husband didn’t understand how outraged I was over it until I argued with him over it again and again. He may still not fully understand it; for all I know, he’s just agreeing now to be nice or avoid a fight! But think about it: what if every movie you saw was filled with women—astronauts, military leaders, lawyers, whatever—all who are successful or working on their dreams or whatever, and the only male character is a token love interest who is barely even involved, except for kissing scenes.
If you’d seen this kind of media your entire life, from childhood on, don’t you think that you’d be pissed off that you had no one to look up to in the movies, no man who ever did anything with his life other than pick up his lover’s dry cleaning? No heroes, no lead roles, and no conversation with other men save for conversation about a woman… Just think about it.
No Pixar movie has ever had a female lead. Could you imagine if Buzz and Woody were girls instead? It would have been totally different for the girls seeing the films. And this isn’t even representative of the population, seeing as females make up 52% of it. Now that I’m so aware of this and how it spreads over every genre, every intended audience, I sort of dread seeing movies now. I still love to go, but I’d much rather see female roles than male ones.
If you are interested in learning more about this, or critiquing movies based on the test yourself, visit the Bechdel Test website.