Have you ever heard of the Bechdel test or even know what it is? Don’t worry if the question to both of those is no.
Sophia Coppola, in a recent interview, was asked and she said she had no clue what the test was. See, there's no reason to fret.
The Bechdel test started out as a tongue-in cheek comic strip that is now rather famous, Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, and attributed to her friend Liz Wattley. This test has become a cultural yardstick for talking about film and feminism to see if whether or not a film has female characters that could be thought of as realistic.
For a film to pass the Bechdel test it must have these three things: It must have two female characters, they must talk to one another in the movie, and the topic of conversation can be about anything other than a man.
You'd think that with these rules every movie would pass, but then you would be dead wrong. In 2016 alone, one-third of the top movies that were out failed the test’s requirements. Crazy, right? The test has come under criticism about if it really works, and to what extent if it does in calling attention to Hollywood’s sexism..
The test itself doesn’t seem enough to determine whether a film takes its women characters seriously, however, what it does provide is an analytical lens through which we can see movies in a different light so to speak.
So on that note, here’s how these six famous movies that have nailed or barely passed the Bechdel test.
1. Ferris Bullers Day Off
Even though Matthew Broderick’s character is the main star of the movie, Ferris is far from being the main topic of conversation to all of Jeanie and Mrs. Buller’s chats, nor is Charlie Sheen’s character. His mother and sister share a conversation about the arrest in the car on their way home. As for Sloan, she definitely needs a gal pal.
2. La La Land
The story of two star-crossed lovers is told in this romantic musical about Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who is interestingly more obsessed with their own careers rather than one another. Even though La La Land failed to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, it did pass the Bechdel Test on many occasions. The one the stands out the most is when Mia is talking with her three female roommates about going to a party. Another one is when Mia is discussing with a woman casting director, a potential acting role.
3. The Help
In Alabama, in the 1960’s, Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns home from college wanting to become a writer. She begins collecting the oral history of the black women who have all worked in the houses of local white families. At first, she was only able to get one maid, Aibileen, (Viola Davis) to talk. As the stories began to emerge, it turned the entire community upside down.
It takes a while for the movie to actually pass the test, but finally, when Aibileen recounts her story, it finally does. And as all the women begin to get together and share their stories, the movie passes in a few other instances.
4. Beauty And The Beast
This live-action revival actually, puts some of its own feminist touches on the original version. For one thing, Belle is the master inventor, not her father. Beauty and the Beast passes when Belle is having a conversation with the wardrobe and Mrs. Potts about the enchanted castle, all while having the beat and her father on her mind.
5. Kill Bill Vol, 1
In this ultra-violent Tarantino film, Uma Thurman plays a bride, who has amazing samurai skills and goes after an entire team of assassins after they tried to kill her as and her unborn child. On the brides’ first stop on her killing spree, she visits Vernita Green (Vivica Fox). When Vernita’s daughter Nikki enters the house, the two women take their brutal fight into the kitchen, which then turns into a verbal battle where no man is ever mentioned. However, after Vernita’s daughter Nikki leaves, the bride gets back to business and kills Vernita.
6. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
A feud starts up between newscaster Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone when she as the newcomer threatens to outshine Burgundy, and his male ego can’t take it.
It’s the 1970’s, and the top guy in the newsroom can’t stand to see a woman rise above him, and does not handle this with any kind of poise, however, he does cope with hilarity.
Anchorman passes the test when Veronica is speaking to Donna, an office assistant about a cat fashion show of all things. Well, really, who would love to see cats all dressed up in cute outfits?
In Hollywood (and in many other places) it’s a man’s world, but now more than ever voices are fighting, and are being heard. We’ve all seen where there’s been two female characters, mainly chick flicks, but have you ever really listened to what they were actually conversing about? Next time you’re watching a movie, take the challenge and see how many actually pass the Bechdel test.
Banner/thumbnail imaged credit: Wikimedia Commons user Srravya