The Bechdel Test was created by Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic ‘dykes to watch out for’. Movies are tested on three aspects. 1) There are two women 2) who talk to each other 3) about something other than a man. The comic was written as a joke, but when applied to films it addresses a much bigger picture of gender and racial discrepancies within films in Hollywood.
The length of the interaction between the two women does not matter, nor does the subject matter which is stereotypically feminine. The movies that pass the test are usually the movies that still represent women in a sexist way, movies such as Sex in The City, Cat Woman and St. Trinians. Whereas other well made films may not pass the test.
Films that pass The Bechdel Test are Million Dollar Baby, Toy Story 3, Die Hard (1988), No Country for Old Men and Little Miss Sunshine. Films that don’t make it are Avatar, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part ii and the Lord of The Rings Trilogy.
Many of these films lack female interaction with substance. Films such as Bridesmaids give a more honest portrayal on female relationships. But movies like Bridesmaids are rare. The Bechdel Test can also be used to highlight racial discrepancies within Hollywood movies. By examining 1) two people of colour 2) talk to each other 3) about something other than their white oppressor. It’s not down to producers, genre or director it’s down to Hollywood and the Hollywood effect.
In the 2013 Oscars only two movies clearly pass the test and two others were questionable. If the interaction had a time frame, as in an interaction between women for one minute, most movies would not make the cut.
Movies that pass the test are not necessarily good or bad, anti-women or feminist. It’s simply to raise awareness and to get people to think about the female representation and gender in film. So the next time you watch a film, just see if it passes the test!