Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Topic Face Off: The Bechdel Test

FACE OFF: The Bechdel Test (topic)

Originated by: Alison Bechdel

Introduction: What is the Bechdel Test?

The Bechdel Test is a competency applied to movies, books, graphic novels, and other media. For the purposes of this blog entry, we'll discuss how it applies to movies (since that's what we review).   To pass the test, a movie must a) feature two named female characters who b) have a conversation with each other about c) something other than a man. You can learn more about the Bechdel Test at

Critic: Jason

Tis a silly test.

Tara how is your husband?  (Whew had to fail the test first.) I find it funny that this post is tagged with the word "equality." The Bechdel Test does nothing to promote equality or even find it in media. It even slurs the idea of what a well-rounded character is. When I get together with friends, I don't always talk about women BUT the topic comes up. That is because I am, like the majority, not asexual.

I don't curb these discussions because I am proud of who and what I am. Now I understand that it is bad character development if a character (no matter what the gender) is one-track minded. It is the reason Sam Malone in "Cheers" progressively becomes a pathetic character with each season. We get the joke, he sluts around town and the guys applaud him for it. Also Vince Vaughn; I don't need to say any more.

Princess vs Princess.  

Tara pointed out to me that "Star Wars" movies don't pass even though Leia is a strong, well-rounded character  (The point of the test mind you.)  Leia saves Hon Solo by going under cover at Jabba's. Also, don't forget she took over her own rescue when Luke and Han were saving her and ended up saving them.  That's right the save-ee becomes the saver. Take that, hunter/hunted!

Now lets look at Cher from "Clueless."  Cher is a valley girl in high school and a horrible stereotype. Heck, I am just a cross dresser and I am offended by Cher. She can't earn good grades and must negotiate and barter for them; she can't drive,  she's more worried about her clothes than her own safety when she is being mugged.

Oh, and lets not forget the fact that she judges a book by its cover when she tells her friend not to date a skater. In fact, her one redeeming quality is the fact she doesn't disown Christian when she finds out he is gay. So clearly this movie can't pass the Bechdel Test.  Oh wait, it did. The first female-to-female conversation is about Dionne's wardrobe and funny hat. Not being sure if it actually did pass the test, I checked it out of and sure enough, it does count.

So if I had to pick a role model for my fictitious daughter Ada,  I would rather want her to be Leia.

This is because it is a meaningless test; it doesn't gauge if a character has meaning, just if her first conversation wasn't about a boy and IF it was the first female-to-female conversation.  Also, as long as we worry about things like this then we really won't have equality.

Defender: Tara 

Tis a noble test!

When movies more often than not fail to actually depict two named female characters talking to each other about anything other than a guy, it's a problem. End of story. That's not how real life works, and if my fictitious daughter (we'll call her 'Anne Shirley') was watching movies, I'd want her to see something other than portrayals of women talking about guys and nothing else.

Additionally, the Bechdel Test is a valuable tool for producers and film companies. Let's say a company like Marvel Entertainment wants to diversify their audience. How do they do it? They make a movie - like "Thor" (2011). "Thor" is a movie focused on a guy with an ego problem, but it still manages to pass the Bechdel Test within the first ten minutes. By the time the character of Thor came back in "The Avengers," the ensemble Marvel movie made it onto the top five grossing movies of all time - boasting a 40% female demographic for viewership. (I'm okay with that. Here, Marvel, take all my money. Just have it.)

The Bechdel Test isn't the sole determination of equality in a movie. In fact, it's not saying anything about whether a movie features equality. It's just a general measure to exemplify the content of the movie and raise awareness of female characters' interactions with each other in movies.

I agree that Princess Leia is a notable role model, as is Peggy Carter, the female protagonist featured in "Captain America: The First Avenger," another of my favorite Marvel movies. Like the character of Jane Foster from "Thor," Peggy doesn't let the hero get away with stupid stuff.

What do you think about the Bechdel Test? Leave your comments below.

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