Ever heard of this thing called the Bechdel Test? You should have, it’s not like we haven’t told you about it before. It’s this little test designed to quickly measure the pervasiveness, or lack thereof, of female characters in films. I was reminded of it the other day whilst trolling through the vast information wasteland that is Boing Boing dot net, where I ran across this explanatory video:
You get all that? To pass the test, a movie simply has to have:
1) At least two female characters with names
2) That talk to each other
3) About something other than a man
Now it doesn’t take an advanced degree in Women’s Studies from Dartmouth to quickly realize that passage or failure of the Bechdel does not automatically guarantee that a film is or is not somehow sexist in its portrayal of the world and its people. Or in some cases, creatures. A film could show a group of females going on about clothes, hair, shopping, makeup, botox, skinny bitches that should be drawn and quartered, and omygod you guys, math is SO HARD! for 127 minutes and pass with flying colors.
But I don’t think this test is really about individual films so much as it is about overall trends in film. If large percentages of the movies burning up our screens never once show two female characters talking to one another about something other than a dude, then it’s worth asking, whose stories are being told? Whose are being ignored?
Of course, it’s those percentages that seem to be lacking, the hard numbers. Or at least I can’t find them after a whole five minutes of googlering. As I scroll down this big list of movies on the Bechdel Test website, I see lots of icons telling me which ones passed or failed, but nothing that tells me concretely what percentage of films pass, how many fail, how many fail for each criterion, etc. etc. blah blah blah. The only thing I found was this L.A. Times article from last February that stated, “…the number of female characters grew dramatically when a woman directed a film — up to 44.6% from 29.3% if a man was behind the camera.” So, assuming these numbers are solid, mmmmmm yeah, mayhaps there’s an issue worth thinking about.
But you know what? Screw it. Let’s have some fun.
I pulled together a random sampling of movies that our cinematic future holds in store for us over the next year or two. For each one, howzabouts we make some predictions regarding whether or not they will pass the Bechdel criteria? Not if they’ll be good movies, not if they’ll succeed or flop, not if they’ll be sexist, just if they’ll pass this one simple little test. Two chicks. With names. Talking to each other. Not about dudes. Sounds fun, right? You with me? Okay, jumping right in….
Machete – this Robert Rodriguez revenge flick stars Danny Trejo as an ex-Federale. Guess who else it stars? Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, and everybody’s favorite jailhouse princess, Lindsay Fucking Lohan. And let us not forget these two:
Think I saw homegirl on the left doing some street theater in Prague last summer. It’s not clear from the NSFW due to tits and intestines trailer if Alba, Rodriguez, and Lohan share any scenes, or even which sides their characters are on, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that maybe, just maybe, they find something else to talk about besides Danny Trejo’s tattooed pecs.
Bechdel Prediction: a hesitant PASS
The Social Network – David Fincher’s take on the drama swirling around the curly-mopped head of young Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of everybody’s favorite social media site. There’s plenty of women listed in the cast, some of whom were lucky enough to land such career-defining roles as “Coke Girl”, “Hot Asian Girl”, and “Hacker Shot Girl.” My sense is that everyone in this film who is not Mark Zuckerberg is there as either a step or an obstacle in his path. Have they vagina or have they penis, they all spin in an orbit around Mark Zuckerberg’s member. Even when they’re talking about Facebook, they’re still talking about him, but no matter what anyone seems to be talking about, what they’re really talking about is getting their hands on the keys to some fat cash. Or at least that’s my guess.
Bechdel Prediction: Depends how deep we get into the subtext, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with FAIL
Sucker Punch – Guns! Explosions! Robots! Hot chicks in fetishwear! How do you not love it already?
The film tells the story of Baby Doll, a young woman who’s been institutionalized, but finds escape in an alternate reality. The cast consists primarily of women, including Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung. Considering that the action alternates between a mental ward and an imaginary warzone, I’m betting these girls don’t have a lot of time to chit-chat about boys.
Bechdel Prediction: PASS
Tron Legacy – A son’s quest to find his father in the guts of a video game universe. Looks like a lot of the ladies in this one have the same name, Siren. And that they resemble very expensive sex toys.
Bechdel Prediction: FAIL
Somewhere – Sofia Coppola’s new film starring Stephen Dorff as your standard Hollywood actor guy and Elle Fanning as his daughter who comes to visit him and prompts some kind of soul-searching path to enlightenment paved with bricks of tears or whatever. It looks like it might have a similar feel to Lost in Translation with a somewhat oddly matched pair stumbling through a series of adventures together and everyone else is just periphery.
Bechdel Prediction: FAIL
Conan – Oh whatever, just look at this picture:
Bechdel Predicton: A great glorious blood-drenched fireball of FAIL which we should all, male and female alike, watch together in a theater that serves buckets of beer.
So yeah, if I’m wrong on any of these, I totally owe you a beer, which I will gladly purchase for you when you show up at the bar where I happen to be drinking. People who drink with me regularly are not eligible. Void where prohibited.TOP POSTS