General Question

Stinley's avatar

Have you heard of the Bechdel test?

Asked by Stinley (11505points) April 6th, 2016

I came across it in an article I was reading and found it fascinating. The test is to watch a film and see if it passes three rules:
1. There are more than 2 women in it
2. the women talk to each other
3. they talk about something other than a man
There are a couple of add ons which can be included:
– Are the women named?
– do they speak for more than one minute?
– are they alive at the end

I can’t find the article again but the wiki page is quite interesting.

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16 Answers

Mariah's avatar

Yep! Passing or failing the Bechdel test doesn’t prove a movie is feminist/unfeminist (Twilight passes it, for example) but it can be an interesting indicator to pay attention to.

Seek's avatar

It’s an extremely low bar, but that’s the point. The bar is that low and still so many movies don’t pass it.

I’d argue the new Star Wars movie fails the Bechdel test, because the only conversation Rey had with a not-man about something that wasn’t a man, was a conversation with an alien, and while the alien was played by a female actor, that alien’s gender identity is completely unknown to us. That species could reproduce via osmosis for all we know.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Seek

I’d argue that that’s perhaps taking it a bit too seriously. Besides, they’re not exactly ambiguous about portraying Maz Kanata as a feminine, motherly type character regardless of however her particularly species might reproduce*.

*And anyway, is reproduction really the standard we want to go by when discussing gender issues?

Seek's avatar

Here’s my reasoning here:

The Bechdel test is referring to women in movies being reduced to accessories for male characters.

Maz is not a human female. Maz, even if portrayed as feminine, is not going to be viewed in any way as a human female will be. She is not subject to the life of a human female, is not viewed by humans as a human female is viewed or treated how a human female is treated.

Yes, her voice is played by a female actor, but would you say a conversation between Doctor Beverly Crusher and the Enterprise Computer (voiced by the female Majel Barret-Roddenberry) about medical tricorders count as a conversation between two females? What about a conversation between the sex-bot Lenore from the film Serenity and Zoe Washburn about… I don’t know… cookie recipes?

This is entirely ignoring the fact that the entire conversation between Maz and Rey is about her carrying on Luke’s destiny. The only line that can be considered about not-Luke or another dude is about Luke’s lightsaber.

The fact that we are even having this conversation is a sign that it doesn’t pass the spirit of the test. It should be absolutely not even difficult to find two female characters talking like people in a film with as much going on in it as Star Wars.

Imagine watching a film and literally every male character only talks to a woman or about a woman. Then make that almost every movie you see ever. It would get terribly annoying very quickly.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Nah, Maz is a human as any human character. All characters, whether they be robots, aliens or elemental spirits, in all fiction are. There are no truly alien characters, despite whatever visual design they may have, in any work of fiction, as all fiction we have is created by humans who are only able to project the human experience into fanciful imaginative creations.

I don’t even dispute the rest of your argument necessarily. I just think it’s silly to dismiss Maz as a woman character because she’s not a human character. Honestly, it’s nearly like the folks who try to argue that sexing up Liara with the female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect doesn’t count as servicing male lesbian fantasies because the Asari (Liara) aren’t human.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Alien passes the test and it’s a movie about walking penis monster.

canidmajor's avatar

The Hunger Games movies and the Divergent movies, both from Young Adult book series about dystopian futures cover Bechdel to the nth degree and beyond. It’s nice that there are examples like that for teen girls.
As much as I loved her, Annette Funicello was not the epitome of stellar role model in her film roles.

Esedess's avatar

Every hentai I’ve ever seen passes this test. Glad to know they’re so wholesome.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

All the characters in Star Wars are technically aliens

Seek's avatar

More pedantry and further evidence that the phenomenon of women talking about not-men in movies is sorely lacking.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Special Agent Dana Scully is proof you can have a strong and independent female lead without strictly meeting the criteria above.

Seek's avatar

Scully has all sorts of non-male-inclusive conversations. The X Files isn’t even on the spectrum of failure.

One of the best goddamn shows ever. Don’t make me turn this car around.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^One of the best goddamn shows ever.

Yes Indeed.

Tooms is reaching through the Internet at you.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Lightlyseared “Alien passes the test and it’s a movie about walking penis monster.”

Freud would have a fucking field day with that movie.

Stinley's avatar

I agree that if you have to argue about whether one character is female in order for the film to pass then the film is definitely not adhering to the spirit of the exercise

I’m going to look through my DVD collection and sort them into pass or fail.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Alien probably literally was inspired from a walking penis monster knowing Hans Gieger and his typical work

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