Saturday, November 9, 2013

12. The Bechdel Test

How many films that you've seen have at least two female characters in them who talk to each other about something other than a man? It may seem like you can name plenty, but in reality, there are not very many films that meet these simple criteria of the Bechdel Test. The test was named after Alison Bechdel, an American cartoonist, whose comic Dykes to Watch Out For first introduced this set of criteria for determining gender bias in 1985. Then, it became widely used for discussing films and other works of entertainment.

So to pass the Bechdel Test, a movie has to pass these three questions:
  1. Does it have at least two women in it who have names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they discuss something besides a man?
You'll be surprised that most films you've seen fail this test. 

But the goal of this test is not just to determine whether a film meets these criteria. It is intended to give us a broader understanding of the film industry and its tendency to cater more to men than women and to portray women in one dimension.

Just recently, Swedish movie theaters have begun using the Bechdel test to rate films. If a film passes the test, it gets an "A" rating, if not, it remains unrated. The goal of the rating system is to encourage the industry to portray "more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens". Smart move, isn't it?

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