The Bechdel Test

This is a video that runs through the movies that were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and measures them for how well-represented women are in the Hollywood scene. They use the Bechdel Test – what initially began as a bit of a joke now really highlights the lack of a significant female presence in films. Basically it says that if a movie passes the test it must fulfill the following conditions:

1. The movie must contain at least 2 women.

2. They must have names

3. They must talk about something else other than a man.

The sad thing about this Bechdel test, besides the fact that it even has to exist, is that very few films even pass the test. You would think that in 2012 that women would play a bigger part in the Hollywood industry, but the jobs are saturated with male director, producers, and writers who make movies about male centered themes. The Bechdel test, however, brings to light the male centered presence in film and it does recognize the fact that there should be some more variety in Hollywood with other minority groups as well.

2 thoughts on “The Bechdel Test

  1. I hope you don’t find my comment offensive as this is not my intention. As a man, I was intrigued by this video. I want you to know that I understand the point, as a woman, when you see movies that don’t pass the “Bechdel Test” that women feel under-represented in movies.

    If we were to create some hypothetical situations to determine the importance of women in Hollywood, we would quickly see that it is absolutely imperative for women to be in movies. Consider absolutely any movie that has women in it at all (I’m merely trying to exclude movies that have only one character in the whole movie that happens to be a male); if you were to remove those female characters, the movie – in my opinion – would not be worth watching. Consider Stargate and it’s sequels (yes I am a Sci-Fi fan), if you were to remove any of the female characters, I would be much less interested in those series, and those series would just not be watched by anyone. I realize that many of Stargate’s episodes don’t pass the Bechdel test as Amanda Tapping rarely has involvement with another woman, I’m merely trying to assert the fact that woman are necessary in films.

    Having said this, consider this, it is absolutely impossible to be in this world without talking to or about a male or female, whether or not you are male or female. People are male, female, black, white, coloured (yes I am Canadian, no I didn’t spell coloured wrong… in Canada anyway); planet earth is quite diverse and it’s not practical to have absolutely nothing to do with that diversity. I realize that the Bechdel test does not target society, but rather the film industry, particularly those works of art that have been nominated with some award.

    Forms of art may – at times – depict a stage that a particular society is in. I don’t believe that those involved in the production of a film are intentional in making sure that films do not pass the Bechdel test. As I have said, art can depict the stage a society is in. It’s just where we’re at. The woman in the video notes that there are a lot of films that pass the Bechdel test, but many of those films are “stereotypical and have sexist representations”. Now consider that during the renaissance period there were a lot of paintings that included woman, and they were mostly naked. The reason why they were naked is because in that period women were appreciated for their artistic attributes, it wasn’t perverted or sick. Contrast this with those stereotypical and sexist films (and many magazines that I don’t care to mention that have similar images as those in the renaissance). It looks a lot different. In years gone by the punishment for rape was having your… well let’s just say those guys never had kids. Contrast that with today, where the punishment is far less severe.

    The Bechdel test may not be the indicator of the problem that is noted in the video. Having women under-represented in films is the least of the problems that society (and woman) is/are facing. What changed from the renaissance to now? Why are woman viewed as tools instead of being appreciated and protected as they once were? The answers to those questions help us discover a much bigger (well maybe not bigger but much broader and different) issue. I am not saying that you think that women being under-represented is the only or the biggest issues that are plaguing society. What I am saying is that the root of the problem needs to be addressed. We could have hundreds of movies nominated for best picture that have heavy involvement of women and thus have no need of the Bechdel test, but then the problem may still very well be present.

    This has become much longer than intended, so I will end this monstrous comment with this: please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying as discouraging you from voicing your opinion or saying that your opinion is insignificant. On the contrary, I am saying that your opinion is important and that we do need women to be in our society’s currently biggest form of art and for them to be appropriately appreciated. I am encouraging you to continue being the woman that you are.


    1. I don’t find this offensive at all. In fact, I do recognize where you are coming from. Some story lines may not fit in with the guidelines of this test, but those elements may not be as important or relevant to what is being portrayed in the film.

      I feel as though we should treat the Bechdel test as a conversation starter in the world of Hollywood. In the instances where these elements are relevant, movie goers and the film makers of Hollywood should discuss what is really taking place in their movies.

      There are many individuals who are just not aware of the under-representation of women, and minorities in film, and this way of thinking and ongoing under-representation has been reflected in politics and mainstream society as well. bringing awareness to these issues with a simple checklist is just the first step in the conversation.


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