Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist behind the long-running Dykes to Watch Out For and the modern classic autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, also lent her name to the Bechdel Test. That simple check evaluates a film on whether 1. it has at least two women in it that 2. talk to each other 3. about something other than a man. It was first mentioned in a comic strip than ran over 25 years ago. Here’s an excerpt:
The test’s popularity as a gauge of how well Hollywood treats female characters has grown in the years since then, until now, it has its own website with a list of whether movies pass or not. Note that some great films don’t pass, while some terrible ones do; it’s a simple measure, aimed at one (significant) factor, not the be-all, end-all of evaluation. However, people tend to get very testy when their favorites don’t pass. The most recent debate I recall was around Pacific Rim. Many women liked the character of Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, particularly her motivation and determination, yet the movie blatantly fails the test because the only two women in it never speak to each other.
Anyway, I found it fascinating that cinemas in Sweden are now publicizing the Bechdel Test ratings of the movies they’re showing. Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm, was quoted as saying
“The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction, and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test…. For some people it has been an eye-opener…. The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens.”
I would hope that’s something we could all support.
Update: Alison Bechdel responds to the news.