Quick, name a film that has a bunch of female characters who talk to each other about things other than men!
Time’s up. You can’t think of any, can you? Even if you did, you have to admit that you didn’t have much to choose from.
The Bechdel Test was created by Alison Bechdel in her 1980s comic “Dykes to Watch Out For.”
If a film/TV show passes the following tests, then it has passed the overall Bechdel Test:
1. There must be two or more female characters
2. who talk to each other
3. about something other than men.
It is possibly the lowest standard we can have for women in films/TV. It does not include quality of the female characters nor does it include any events. It also does not record the amount of WoC or queer women represented. Thus, passing the Test doesn’t necessarily make a film/TV show a “feminist” show.
Jennifer Kesler writes in her blog post titled “The Bechdel test: it’s not about passing,” “Whether or not your story includes the Bechdel scene says absolutely nothing about whether it’s sexist or not. The measure of sexism is whether your story denies women the opportunity to participate in it.”
Kesler further writes how the Bechdel Test makes us question why there’s a dearth of female characters in the media. The truth is that there is only a tiny amount of well-developed female characters who contribute to the advancement of stories, Kesler notes.
The Huffington Post highlights a study by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in 2009 which showed that 32.8 percent of actors are female and 67.2 are male (or 2.05 males to every one female). “This means that less than 17 percent of films are gender balanced, even though females make up half of the ticket-buying population.”
P.S.: I’ve recently begun watching Once Upon a Time, a fantasy TV series in which fairy tale characters under a curse find themselves in our “real world” without a single memory of their pasts. It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. So, if you’re interested in seeing a Bechdel approved TV show/film for a change, I’d highly recommend you give Once a watch!