Oh, did that pass the Bechdel Test?

While putting together a quick DVD display at the Ross-Broadway Library Branch this morning, I started thinking about the Bechdel Test. In case you have never heard of it, it's a simple test developed by a cartoonist in the eighties about women in film.

To pass the test a movie must have three things:

  • Two or more named women characters.
  • Two or more of these women must have a conversation with each other.
  • This conversation is about something other than men.

Of course, this is not the be-all-end-all test for whether a movie is feminist or that it is not sexist, but it is a fun thing to think about. And the results can surprise you! The pictured movies are all ones that surprised me by passing the test... I have found that science fiction and horror movie genres have few titles that can claim a passing grade on the Bechdel Test.

Some titles that surprised me by failing the test include: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II; the Star Wars Trilogy; and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Really? With all those characters?

There is a bit of a backlash against the test, mostly to insist that movies that fail the test can still be good movies - and I agree that they can be. And also to opine that passing movies can still be sexist - which many are. And certainly, there is a Reverse Bechdel Test, just to make sure we are not forgetting the men.

In any case, it's a fun little game for the average film viewer like myself. The library is the perfect place to test your own film theories - check 'em out for free!


New movies at DPL that pass the test:

Written by Becky on March 21, 2014


Becker on March 22, 2014


Thanks for sharing these! The Bechdel Test works for books, too. DPL staff used it when compiling this list for Denver Comic Con 2013, Strong Women, Now With Clothes: http://bit.ly/NCdfo1.

Becky on March 25, 2014


That's a great idea for Comic Con! I think it works as a great quick "litmus" test for putting lists together. Applying the idea to books is also a great plan!

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