Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Bechdel Test

I can't believe that I had never heard of this before:

In short, it's a quick little test to assess a) whether women are actually present in films, and b) whether they are given a purpose outside of their relationships with men. It sounds like it should be easy enough for film studios to pull this off, right? And, yet, it's amazing to see how many films - especially the stuff that's not explicitly marketed at either men or women, and so usually taken to be gender-neutral - fail it miserably. (Just check out the link.)

Now, it's super-important to add that passing the test doesn't indicate that a film is feminist and failing it doesn't make a film misogynist. Nor does a particular result make a movie good or bad. It simply does what it purports to do - measure the presence of women in our movies.

The test has three questions:
1) are there at least two female characters with names?
2) do they talk to each other, and not only men?
3) do they talk about something other than men?

It's not the most rigorous criteria, and my memory isn't perfect, so there's bound to be some room for disagreement. But let's run the test on the last 10 movies that I've either seen in a theater or rented:

The Kids are Alright
The Lovely Bones



The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
(I can't recall whether the teenage girls ever talk to one another)
The Messenger
A Serious Man (do the mom and daughter ever speak?)
A Single Man (though only Julianne Moore speaks, so it could just as easily be a 0)

Crazy Heart
Inception (imho, I don't think that Mol counts)

Fyi, if I changed the test to measure for men, every film would get a 3 out of 3.

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