Bechdel Test

bechdel_singleframe_small_texturedI made a longer version of this with clunky explanations as well, and I quite like the drawings – it’s below the cut:



9 thoughts on “Bechdel Test

  1. Any stats on the ‘reverse’ bechdel test? I’m wondering if in fact people in films mostly just talk about the other sex and therefore the reverse test also fails surprisingly often. So in fact the test might be a lot stricter than it sounds. Although I already expect nearly all action films to fail the bechdel test while passing the reverse one. Not many people want to watch women have fist fights. So that’s a large blame category already.

    1. it’d be interesting to investigate this. i’d especially like to see a list of films which pass the bechdel test but fail the reverse bechdel test.

  2. I had a search for stats on RBT and someone mentioned it on the page for “the hunger game”, as a candidate for the reverse fail. I haven’t seen it but judging on the book it seems plausible. Anything with a female lead with the whole story told from her perspective is going to be a strong candidate. The last film I saw, yesterday afternoon, was, most unfortunately, “the house bunny”. This certainly passes the BT and may have failed the RBT. (As proposed by your comic) it was a miserable failure by other feminist measures.

    Also note another way in which BT is stricter than it obviously seems is that it measures something like the square of the gender imbalance, because it’s about two person interactions. e.g if one third of characters are female, unbalanced but not outrageous, then already we expect 4 times as many male-male interactions as female-female interactions (1/9 of interactions vs 4/9). So a moderate gender imbalance is made to look much worse.

    1. the test is definitely designed to starkly highlight films with even a lack of female characters and interactions. and yeah, there’s a lot of films where a small bias towards a male cast will make the test much easier to fail. i guess the impact is not to looking at individual examples but at the aggregate, which shows that this bias is strongly present in a majority of films.

      all that said, the test is mostly just a quick way of considering the relative exposure of women as characters in a movie, and you definitely can’t infer things about a movie’s politics from a pass or a fail, and using it as your only analytical tool is pretty problematic. it would be interesting to find an alternate, well-defined metric for representations of gender in a movie, if that’s even reasonable.

      1. A simple percentage of screen time or dialogue seems to have some value. Perhaps harder to measure but still pretty well defined. I would expect the imbalance to be worse than my “not outrageous” one third above. Both of these have similar weaknesses to the bechdel test, though (a film could pass all three and still have sexist attitudes).

        1. yeah i think anything more complicated than that is difficult – do you know any other tests which successfully evaluate the politics of a thing without detailed questionnaires or subjectivity? (maybe we can count the version of godwin’s law that states ‘any argument which references hitler or stalin is no longer a useful discussion’)

          1. I’ve got nothing on that. I don’t even trust political alignment tests for people to have much predictive power at the moment so I don’t expect them to generate anything meaningful for films.

    1. it’s the Magic Rod of Grrn’Andr. It was prophesied one day a teenage American everyman would find it and use it to save the world from a Great Darkness and win the heart of Love Interest.

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