Basically, it goes like this. In order to pass this “test”, a movie must have all of the following:
- Two female characters present who have names.
- The two female characters must talk to each other.
- They must converse about something other than boys. (Women discussing plot issues involving men counts, but not if they are talking about romantic involvement with those men.)
Keep in mind when using this test, it is a yes/no answer – not a “yes, but” or a “no, but”. What made me discover this test?
Garbanzo saw this video which got us talking about our own movie collection in those terms.
It’s kind of interesting really. Especially when you think about the movies that are supposedly geared towards women. Few of them will pass this test. Why? Because unless they happen to have scene where the two women talk about something other than men, they don’t usually pass the test. And even in those cases, they barely pass it at that. We could sometimes find action movies where there were two female characters with names, but often they never shared a scene. One was the love interest while the other was the antagonist or associated with him. What is also surprising? Most of the “highly acclaimed movies” don’t seem to pass this test. And also interesting was the fact that some of the people most praised for their realistic dialog did not pass this test consistently.
What was another surprising thing? How about half of the kids movies don’t even pass this test. The first Shrek movie? Nope. Ice Age? Nope. The Princess and the Frog? Yes. The Harry Potter Movies? Yes. These are some of the easy to check compared to other kids movies.
What I should make clear is that this test, by no means, implies that the movies which pass are “good feminist movies”. Not at all. It just quickly sorts out the movies where female characters are more of a presence to meet a demographic requirement from movies where female characters are not necessarily one dimensional.
For me, this is extremely interesting. Maybe a bit more because I have a child (DJ) who notices these things. I mean, a couple years ago while listening to the radio station, she piped up from the backseat and asked “Why are there no girl rockers? All of these songs are by boys. Why is that?”
And I think that IS a good way of summarizing the point of this test. It is about asking “why is this??” It’s not necessarily about discussing the feminist movement. Or how women are ultimately portrayed. It’s merely a thought provoking concept. This is the point. To ask why, in a world where women are everywhere – politics, business, and all – where are they in the films and television series? If demographic representation is why they usually toss in a woman anyway, why not go all out and represent society realistically? And why does this have to be the exception when someone does do it?
And if you have daughters, I think it’s a good idea to start asking this question too. I mean, we talk a lot about how the media distorts beauty for women – why not talk about how films distort how women are represented. Or even in TV? I mean, why should we not be as discriminate in terms of how women are portrayed in those movies. It would definitely give you a different view on movies like Twilight and others where women are portrayed as weak and in need of protection in comparison to the men. What kind of message does that send our daughters?
Like I said, for me this is more of a “parenting issue” as I want my daughter to see women represented in more than a single place in storylines. I want her to see the potential women have by having them show up in many places in film and TV – not wonder where the women are and why they always have to talk about boys. I almost want to change that last rule to “women talking about non-stereotypical topics like boys, fashion, makeup, weight, etc.” Because, in my experience, there are a lot more going on in the lives of women than those things.
I think these are legitimate questions to ask.
To be fair, I read that things are getting better. When Bechdel introduced this idea, the stats were heavily in the favor of files that would not pass. Today according to the website I’m going to give you below, about half of the ones they look at do. While I’m glad it’s getting better, it’s got a ways to go, in my opinion.
Curious to read the discussions about certain movies? Check out this website.
And a word about this website – the discussions are well done. No femi-nazi dialog here. Just good, honest discussion that doesn’t degenerate into the “yo-mama” sort of BS (as Garbanzo put it).