Friday, July 24, 2009

Bechdel Test Roundup

In writing this post, I found myself drawing a blank when it came to naming movies with a strong female lead. I had to scan my DVD collection and Netflix history to come up with good movies with a strong female lead.

Now I'm a big fan of the Bechdel Test for movies:
1. There at least two named female characters who
2. talk to each other
3. about something besides a man.

It's simple, it's quick, and it's utterly insulting to see how many movies don't have an actual, concrete, non-male-centered conversation between two women. However, instead of talking about how many movies fail, let's talk about how many movies have evidence that their female characters are, indeed, human.

I was going to start a collection of movies that pass the test, but a little Googling revealed there are plenty of sites that do this already, and do it well. So I'm just going to make a collection of links and let you at them.

The Bechdel Test: Movie List (complete with details on movies that don't pass, or only pass a few of the requirements)
Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel Test from The Hathor Legacy
Is there a Bechdel Test for race? from Racialicious
Kissing In The Rain Is Not Acceptable (an ongoing review of films passing the test)
The 'Bechdel Rule,' Defining Pop-Culture Character from NPR and All Things Considered with followup suggestions on the NPR blog on race from Eric Deggans and Natalie Morales


Anonymous said...

So, according to you, any movie that doesn't advance a feminist agenda "fails"?

According to your list, Casablanca fails. Star Wars fails. The Lord of the Rings fails.

The Maltese Falcon fails. The Godfather fails. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly fails.

Feminists probably should avoid being movie critics, as your criteria for "good film" are pretty flawed.

Funny thing...

People won't pay to see "Women sit around having feminist discussions about their menses".

A few moonbat feminists might, sure. But the film will fail.

Look at garbage like "The Hours".

kelly g. said...

I think Anon has Google email him every time the phrase "Bechdel Test" appears on the internets; his comment looks suspiciously similar to one I received on a review of...I forget what it was. Vantage Point, maybe?

Dudes are so protective of "their" pop culture.

lindsay said...


Depicting two women talking to each other about something besides men is a feminist agenda? How about a reflection of millions of women's real life experiences?

Yes, some of the movies you listed are great movies and have a lot to say about what it means to be a human in the world. However, I'd personally like to see more of these great movies include women in more than just one rescue victim (Star Wars), one femme fatale (Maltese Falcon), one warrior (LOTR).

I'm merely collecting a bunch of resources for people who, if they'd like, can actively seek out movies that have more than one female character besides romantic lead and supporting actress who counsels her on men.

@kelly g.
Hah, so true. You want to see some defensiveness of "male" pop culture? See my posts on The Dark Knight/Batman Begins & family relationships and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

kelly g. said...

@ Anon: Speaking of The Hours, you know which movies also suck ass?: Blindness, Towelhead, Ghost World, Alien, Aliens, Alien Resurrection, DeathProof, Planet Terror, Resident Evil, Heathers, But I'm a Cheerleader, Silkwood, and Boys Don't Cry. As you said, nothing ruins a film like two or more cunts in one scene.

lindsay said...

Speaking of Heathers - if anyone is in the Twin Cities, Solera in DT MPLS is showing Heathers on it's rooftop on Tuesday.

Angelia Sparrow said...

I caught a movie recently that failed on point one. NO female characters whatsoever. They would have been out of place in the film. (DAWN PATROL set in a WWI aerodrome)

I like the Bechdel as a secondary rating scale. My primary concern is "Is this a good movie?" It can be a good movie and fail. It can be a rotten movie and pass. I like the ones that are great movies and pass.

I do the 50 movie project, where I try to see 50 movies I've never seen before.

My lists are here: