The Bechdel Movie Test

Woman with a sword

There's this thing called The Bechdel Movie Test.

It's a very simple way to gauge the presence and influence of female characters in movies. Or to be more accurate, determine if a certain movie test has even a minimum presence of any meaningful female characters.

It's a very simple test that has only three simple rules for movies:

  1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man

As you can see from the rules, this isn't a "feminism" test. It's a basic gender presence test and it doesn't demand a lot from a movie. However, even this very, very simple test is hard for a movie to pass, as there's a staggering amount of movies where a woman is nothing more than a love interest or a object prize to be won by a main masculine hero character.

But, it may shock you to find out that only about half of all films meet these requirements, according to user-edited databases and the media industry press. (wikipedia)

Also, this is not the only statistic that is devastating to women in movies. According to a 2014 study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, in 120 films made worldwide from 2010 to 2013, only 31% of named characters were female, and 23% of the films had a female protagonist or co-protagonist.

Female and male characters in film

Image by Sandstein - Own work, based on en:Bechdel test, CC BY-SA 4.0,

To return to the point, 50% of all films don't pass this simple test.

I went to the Bechdel Test Movie List site where they have a huge collection of already analyzed films (Currently 6595 movies in the database) and with help of Quora got a few out which kinda surprised me. Here's a few of them:

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  2. The Godfather (1972)
  3. Jaws (1975)
  4. Star Wars (1977)
  5. Superman (1978)
  6. Ghostbusters (1983)
  7. Batman (1989)
  8. Se7en (1995)
  9. Braveheart (1995)
  10. Mission: Impossible (1996)
  11. X-Men (2000)
  12. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
  13. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  14. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  15. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  16. Spider-Man (2002)
  17. 50 First Dates (2004)
  18. Transformers (2006)
  19. Iron Man (2008)
  20. Avatar (2009)

Just take a look at this list. None of those movies have two female characters that speak to each other about something different than a man. I don't know about you, but things like these really make me mad. It's about time for movie makers to realize that we want to see some variety.

But instead, we got scenes like this one, where the sexism is so rampant you can cut it with a knife:

OK, some will say they only portrait what the public wants to see, but I don't think this is really the case. Not anymore at least. I just feel that the so-called "creative field experts" are trying to play it safe. They say things like "well, this movie did this and that and ended up earning money. So why should we do anything different?"

And they will probably continue to do this unless something is done. And something should be done, because let's face it, movies are also a form of art. Should we leave this kind of art, which does not respect half of humanity to the next generations?

However, I do think that there are some things which we as a humanity can do. We can spread awareness about these practices, for example, as I'm trying to do right now. Many of us just want to unplug when watching a movie, so we don't think about things like these, but this doesn't mean they do not exist. And what's more, nearly all movies try to carry some message with them, a life lesson, if you will. Even if a movie doesn't really influence anyone's mind, I feel that the real film maker should try and leave the world in a slightly better state, than it was in before his movie was released. After all, movies are art, remember?

When we don't care and when we simply accept things as they are, we're also part of the reason why we cannot have better movies.

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