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!

The Bechdel Test

4 thoughts on “The Bechdel Test

  1. kohagan says:

    I first learned about this test about a year ago, and ever since, I’ve applied it to everything I’ve seen–I’ve been really astonished by how many movies/television shows fail. Even some of my favorite movies, what I would consider great movies, fail this test. There’s no reason Hollywood can’t make equally great films that would pass this test (and more, since as you point out, this is a bare minimum).

    It also made me think about a reverse-Bechdel test–how many movies would fail that? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, and I bet relatively few exist.

    • shatoum says:

      I only learned about this test a few months ago. It’s really unfortunate how many acclaimed films fail the test…

      Reverse Bechdel Test could be interesting & I can’t imagine there are many that’d fail that. Hmmm I just looked up an example because I couldn’t think of anything and came up with “The Help!”

  2. kerishma says:

    I was almost giddy when Elementary passed the Bechdel Test with, in my eyes, flying colors: not only two wome, but two women of color (Lucy Liu and Anika Noni Rose) talking to each other about MEDICINE. Glory!

    • shatoum says:

      How could I not mention Elementary in this post! It’s definitely Bechdel-approved and then some. The show would get more gold stars from me for having a recurring female character other than Joan, though.

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