"The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. [...] The test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. In 1985, she had a character in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For voice the idea."I've only read teeny bits of Bechdel's comic strip, but I read her entire graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic for a class on writing memoir. It was a difficult read because I have a hard time with comic books and graphic novels, but that's another post entirely. I adore Bechdel's sense of humor, and not just because she's a lesbian and a feminist.
At any rate, I find the Bechdel test to be quite brilliant in determining gender bias in our works of fiction, even while it may have its limitations. To review, we are looking for works that:
- Have at least two (2) named female characters
- who talk to each other
- about something other than a man
I looked through my collection of approximately 210 movies (on DVD; the VHS are in a box in the basement). Of the 210, only 31 made the cut; that's 14.76% for those mathematically inclined. Less than fifteen percent! Of MY movies! What the hell kinda feminist am I??
The 31 movies (in alphabetical order) are:
- Big Business
- A Bug's Life
- Center Stage
- Chicken Run
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Despicable Me
- The Devil Wears Prada
- Ever After
- Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
- All 8 Harry Potter films
- Mary Poppins
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
- Nanny McPhee
- Practical Magic
- Shakespeare in Love
- Stranger Than Fiction
Damn there are a lot of guns in this film.
(Photo provided by Vanderbilt University, Feminism and Film, "The Wachowskis and The Matrix")
Nearly all of my period pieces fail miserably because the many women only talk about men and marriage; they, sadly, had no other options. Sometimes there are multiple female characters, but they only interact with the male characters, not each other. Even Harry Potter barely makes the grade because Hermione and Professor McGonagall have conversations about magical things (sometimes other people are present for said conversations).
It's all rather bleak when you think about it. Of course, I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, or Firefly on DVD; that would have changed the numbers a bit.
My next goal is go through and watch these movies to make sure they do hold true to these tenets. Some of these movies are still in plastic (what??), so I'll start with those and report back. Wish me luck!