Hollywood Fails The Bechdel Test (And Women Everywhere)


We really need to get Hollywood a tutor in gender equality. Seriously, this week has been nothing but revelations (some more obvious than others) of how the film industry takes two steps forward (Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director) and three steps backwards (not a single women nominee since) in creating an even playing field for all. The only way I keep in any sanity in all of this madness is to dive head first. Hollywood is not representing the general population. Check. However, do we really know how deep the rabbit  hole goes?

The recent Feminist Frequency video “The 2012 Oscars and the Bechdel Test” is making waves through the Twitterverse does an excellent job of showing us just how sexism is so deeply imbedded in today’s hit films. First, a quick film studies vocabulary lesson. What the heck is the Bechdel Test?

The Bechdel Test is “a gauge to measure women’s relevance to a film’s plot and assess female presence in Hollywood movies.” The term was popularized in 1985 by comic strip writer Alison Bechdel.

In order to pass,  a film has to:

  1. have at least 2 women in it 
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something besides a man.
Let’s just sit with this for a second. How is this an actual test? I have to believe that films in this day and age have got to feature an array of women lost in conversations of all kinds of non-male dominated subjects. Right…
Feminist Frequency host Anita Sarkeesian goes through the best picture lineup and the results are not good. Hollywood totally flunks with only two films (THE DESCENDANTS and THE HELP) out of the nine nominated barely meeting the above criteria.

**There’s also no secret that Hollywood most definitely needs a tutor in overcoming their racism. The video points out the Bechdel Test has been adapted for discussing the representation of people of color by blogger Alaya Dawn Johnson (her post here). In order to pass,  a film would need to:

  1. have at least people of color in it
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a white person.
Clearly this year, the only Best Picture film nom that makes the cut is THE HELP and even that’s a stretch in some scenes.

So the next time you’re at the movie theater, I ask you to pay close attention to the ladies and people of color (or lack there of ) on-screen. It doesn’t mean these film are bad and we should feel guilty about enjoying them solely because they fail either the gender or race Bechdel Test. However, there is a clear problem when we are absolutely oversaturated with such films that have an apparently low bar in representing the human population fully.

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2 thoughts on “Hollywood Fails The Bechdel Test (And Women Everywhere)

  1. revjonflores says:

    Very enlightening. I guess the gay version would be to have two queer characters talking to each other for longer than a minute about something/someone other than a straight character/person. Let’s call it the JBF test, in my honor, ok? This might need some tweaking since:
    1) we gays love to talk about each other
    2) we’re a super-minority, meaning we represent 3-11% of the general population, or something like that, at least the ones of us who primarily and publicly identify as LGBTQ, so it’s much less likely that more than one of us are present as any character in any film (outside the niche queer film scene)
    3) other stuff that I’m not thinking of yet

    🙂

  2. […] Hollywood Fails The Bechdel Test (And Women Everywhere) […]

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