February 27, 2014 by rachelcmann
I’ve been promising to write about The Bechdel Test and I’ve been avoiding it. Not because I don’t think it’s an important topic, because I do, but because I hold an unpopular opinion.
Here are the rules of the Bechdel test. 1) There are 2 female characters who have a name, 2) Who talk to each other, 3) About something other than a man. That is an incredibly low bar and yet a huge portion of movies don’t pass this simple test. Recently, the “Mako Mori” test was suggested, which basically says that as long as there’s a woman in the movie who has a back story it should get a pass and sorry, but no.
It’s pretty rare that I will a) not watch a movie or b) dislike a movie solely on the number of women in it or what they talk about. And that’s where my real issue with the Bechdel test lies. Among my friends and I we talk about men (platonic or romantic) a good portion of the time. Relationships are a huge part of our lives and it makes sense that we would talk about them. I talk about my Dad or a co-worker or anyone else in my life who happens to be male, including my friends who are male. I would amend the Bechdel test to 3) About something other than getting a man’s attention/love. Because let’s face it, very few movies have strong female leads who aren’t there to get romanced by someone whether they want to or not. Even Mako Mori in Pacific Rim looked pretty cozy with whatshisface there on that floating robot raft.
Furthermore, I hate that we even have to talk about it (it’s been coming up in all corners of my world lately). Being written or directed by a woman doesn’t automatically make a better or more female friendly film/play/show/book. Being about women doesn’t either. I’m not blind to gender bias or to the fact that women are under-represented (or maybe just very one dimensional) in media. But I don’t think our world is equal so why would our media be? Are we working towards that equality? Yes. Should we call bullshit when we see it? Definitely. Should we applaud every time a woman gets a throw away line about getting coffee just so something passes the Bechdel test or any other barometer we decide to use to judge how sexist something is? I hope not.