The Bechdel Test: Why We Need It

The Heat (Poster)
Hey look, a great movie! And it passes!

In the wild world of cinema, not much is said for women. See, it’s hard to remember that yes, maybe women are being critically under represented in mainstream, popular movies today, because BOOM EXPLOSIONS PRETTY LIGHTS SHINY THINGS! But never fear, cinema loving feminists, this very reason is why the Bechdel Test was created.

The Bechdel Test is very simple, really. There are only three rules, and then the movie is in the clear.

  1. The movie needs to include (at least) two women,
  2. Those two women have to  hold an intelligent conversation between themselves,
  3. And that conversation has to be about something other than a man or men.

Now, when I say in number three that the two women must talk about something other than men, I mean men as romantic interests. It’s perfectly fine if they talk about men in the context of a certain family member (ex. brother, father, son), a man they have to save, or a male villain they have to defeat. With that being said, Iron Man 3 passes the Bechdel Test, in the case of Pepper and Maya discussing Aldrich Killian and the Mandarin.

Iron Man 2 (Poster)
A superhero movie that passes!

Also, in the context of number one, the two women talking must have names, and play central parts in the storyline of the movie. Not too hard, you think? Well, it is. Most of the blockbuster comic book movies that I love don’t pass, with a few exceptions like Iron Man 2 and 3. In fact, some of these movies don’t even have more than one female lead. Take Captain America: The First Avenger or The Dark Knight for instance. The only real female leads in those movies are (respectively) Agent Carter and Rachel.

However awesome a character is, like the sole Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or Trinity in The Matrix, if there isn’t another central female character in the movie, or if there is, but they don’t converse with each other (like Maria Hill and Black Widow in The Avengers), then the movie gets a fail. It has to pass all three to pass the complete Bechdel Test.

That isn’t saying that all movies that don’t pass the test are bad, in fact, most movies I love don’t even come close to passing the Bechdel Test. I just think it’s time that we, as movie-goers, opened our eyes to the sexist (but still pretty awesome) industry that is Hollywood.

Before watching the latest non-Bechdel-Test-passing movie, try some of these:

  • The Heat – A hilarious buddy cop comedy starring Melisa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.
  • Divergent – Okay, I didn’t like this movie at all, but other people did, and it definitely does pass.
  • Oblivion – Awesome sci-fi movie, with a tricky plot, and Tom Cruise. Yeah!

Here’s some links!


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