Randy Byers (randy_byers) wrote,
Randy Byers
randy_byers

The Bechdel Test

A couple of recent posts on feminist blogs alerted me to something that one of them was calling the Bechdel Test, although there seems to be some disagreement on the name of the thing. It comes from a comic strip called "The Rule" from Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For. As stated in the strip, the rule/test is a movie that:

1) has at least two women in it
2) who talk to each other
3) about something other than men.

This is a pretty interesting way to look at movies. In the strip, one of the jokes is that Alien qualifies, because "the two women in it talk to each other about the monster." A movie that doesn't qualify is Hellboy 2, which Denys and I saw last night. Thinking about other movies I've seen recently, Tell No One qualifies, but what about Shall We Dance? I'm not sure that Ginger Rogers ever talks to the other women in the movie, let alone about something other than Fred Astaire. The Fall would qualify, as long as you count the conversations the little girl has with the nurse or with her mother.

One thing that this test gets at is a way of pointing at "dick flicks" (as opposed to "chick flicks"). A lot of action or adventure films, like Hellboy 2, do not satisfy the conditions, and they might be thought of as movies aimed at boys. As someone in one of the other threads pointed out, the LOTR movies don't cut it, because the women (e.g., Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn) don't talk to other women. Movies like Iron Man (and like Hellboy) pretty much only have one woman in them to begin with. Then again, Shall We Dance is hardly what I would think of as a dick flick.

It's also interesting to try to figure out if there are movies that satisfy the rule but aren't particularly woman-oriented. I suppose The Fall would be an example. Also the 1939 Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy's conversations with the Good and Bad Witches (and with her aunt, and between the aunt and Miss Gulch) would seem to qualify. Of course, these are both fantasy films with girl protagonists, so maybe they really are woman-oriented. I haven't yet come up with a good example of a dick flick that satisfies the Bechdel Test. Well, maybe Alien, as she pointed out herself.
Tags: feminism, film
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  • 22 comments

  • The Two of Them by Joanna Russ

    She thought that it wasn't David, it wasn't even sex; it was some kind of deeper trouble, not only painful but unbearably, exasperatingly boring,…

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