The Bechdel Test

April 21, 2010


The other morning, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts (“Stuff Mom Never Told You” from How Stuff Works) and toward the end, they were doing listener mail and they talked about something called the Bechdel Test. (Full disclosure if you google it: this test does not appear to have the most family friendly start, but it seems to have become a useful tool that is often used in film classes, etc. and I find it interesting still). I was fascinated as I had never heard of this test for movies. Here are the rules to pass the test:

1. The movie has to have at least two named women in it

2. The women must have a conversation

3. This conversation must be about something other than a man

Those seem to be pretty simple rules-right? I mean, surely, almost every movie has two named female characters. It’s amazing, actually, how many movies do not even meet this first requirement. Here are a few:

“Angels and Demons”
“Men Who Stare At Goats”
“Hancock”

Here are some other movies that do not meet all of the requirements:

“Avatar”
“How To Train Your Dragon”
“(500) Days of Summer”
“Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs”
“Up In The Air”
“Slumdog Millionaire”
“Wall-E”
“Sex And The City” (obviously this one meets requirements 1 and 2, but fails miserably at number 3!)

It’s an interesting thing to think about as you view movies, I think.

Here are some recent movies that ace the Bechdel test:

“Alice In Wonderland”
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”
“Julie and Julia”
“Precious…”
“The Lovely Bones”
“Whip It”

I did a little research to see if anyone’s done a “reverse Bechdel” list–as in, there must be two men in the movie…they must have a conversation not about women…although it seems to me that men often talk about things other than women in movies. Or maybe I’m wrong? Either way, I didn’t find much about a reverse model. As a movie watcher, I think I’ll pay better attention.