The Bechdel Test

I’m a big fan of Roger Ebert’s Twitter feed.  It seems like all that guy does is tweet every waking moment–but it’s almost always about something really interesting.  Anyway, the other day, he tweeted this.
Man, oh man, this is devastating. Scrolling through my recent reviews, NO movie qualifies. Wait, one does. http://j.mp/c9Cfr9
If you click on the link, you’ll find a video about the “Bechdel Test,” which is a litmus test of sorts about whether there is a meaningful female presence in a movie.  The test is very simple:
1) Are there two female characters in the film, and do they have names?
2) Do they talk to each other?
3) …about anything besides men?
You’d be surprised how many mainstream films FAIL this simple test.  Almost all of them.  Think about it.  Even in romantic comedies, which always contain a lead actress at least one female friend–all they talk about is guys.
This really upset me when I first heard about it.  Especially when I read this article.  Basically, the author says that when she was studying screenwriting, she was told specifically NOT to write something that passes the Bechdel Test.  Why?  Because there is a perception that when women talk to each other, they have nothing interesting to say.  …or at least the audience will assume this, and mentally tune out the conversation.  You know.. cuz all we broads like to talk about is makeup and stuff.
Surely people aren’t so simple-minded to think that women are so… simple minded, are they?
On a related note, I realized that the film I directed in April, Tomboys–about three tomboys who learn that they don’t have to pretend to be something they are not in order to be accepted–despite having three female leads, technically does NOT pass this test.
I think I will look at films–and screenplays that come our way–in a different light from now on.  Should it be so difficult to pass this test?  I think not.

1 Response to “The Bechdel Test”

  1. 1 merumsal
    July 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for pointing me to this post, and the other one about black sidekicks. The fact that the screenwriter was taught NOT to pass the Bechdel test is chilling. So we’ll just get more and more of the same from Hollywood, is that it? Support indie film!

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