The Bechdel test is a benchmark test of sorts in that it measures to see if a work of fiction, a film, etc. has two women in it that talk about something other than a man. Developed in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel the only requirements to pass the test are
- Must include one scene or conversation with two women
- The women must have names (meaning they’re central characters to some degree)
- They have a dialogue that has nothing to do with a man.
It looks ridiculously easy on paper, but you would be shocked to know that only about half of all movies can pass this test. Half. Take away movies made for children, and it’s probably a lot less than that. That’s terrible. For as much as we think we’ve come further than our ancestors, this shows that maybe we haven’t. Are we still completely entertained by the “how to marry a millionaire” mentality?
Once you start looking for the requirements of the Bechdel test, it’s all you’ll be able to notice. Movies like Avatar, Harry Potter, Robocop, Muppets Most Wanted, Planes, Fire and Rescue…all failed. The Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Frozen all passed this test.
It makes you stop and think about the kind of entertainment we watch. It seems as if television shows are more well rounded in that they include female characters that pass the requirements for the Bechdel test. Shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Castle, Rizzoli and Isles all satisfy the Bechdel requirements.
So why can’t Hollywood figure it out? Based on monetary intake, films that pass or fail the test don’t necessarily have a huge difference in profits. Are the stories poorly written? Possibly. The characters are too flat to create a complex relationship with others within the plot. There isn’t enough evolution of the characters to add these kinds of conversations.
It might be quirky and comical, but it’s also offensive. Women speak to other women all day long. We have complex and entertaining conversations that have nothing to do with men. Women are capable of carrying on these types of conversations so why does Hollywood dummy down the friendships between women? It’s insulting to think that two women having a conversation doesn’t warrant script time unless it’s talking about landing said millionaire as previously mentioned.
If art is supposed to imitate life then Hollywood needs to start developing characters within a movie. Blockbusters usually come from movies that have characters that we can identify with ourselves. We need to be moved. The movies just doesn’t do that for us.
There isn’t a test that measures these same criteria for men. That in itself is interesting. Are men perceived as being more able to carry a film with their dialogue? I think not. As a moviegoer and a woman, Hollywood needs to start looking past the easy plot of women chasing a guy.