I thought everyone knew about the Bechdel Test, but when I posted a link on Facebook, I got enough of a reaction that I guess that isn't true! The video below gives a succinct explanation, but the test--named after a classic strip by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel--involves asking yourself three questions about any movie you've seen:
1. Are there more than two women in it?
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. About something other than men?
You'll be hard pressed to think of examples that meet all three criteria. Let me test it on the movies I've seen this summer, limiting myself to just the ones I saw in the theater. (On DVD, I just watched Die Hard and Funny People, both of which fail hardcore!)
-Coco and Igor
-Get Him to the Greek
-Iron Man 2
-Shrek Forever After
(Parenthetical remark: wow, I've seen a lot of trash this summer. This was the consequence of living near a suburban multiplex until just recently.)
Quick scan and....no, I don't think any of these make it. Coco and Igor had two women, but they talked to each other about Stravinsky. Inception had two women, and they did have a brief conversation, but as I recall it was revolving around Leo. Get Him to the Greek--ha! Eclipse? I don't recall every moment of the sodden and poorly-acted dialogue between Kristen Stewart and the various vampire ladies, but I'm going to guess that it fails as well. Lord knows that for a movie putatively about a girl, said girl is defined completely by her relationship with boys. Does Bella have any personality or character trait not related to interactions with boys?
I often bring up the Bedchel test as a counterpoint to the inevitable post-feministry that we find in our classrooms these days. It's not that a movie that fails the test is a bad movie. It's not even the case that all feminist movies pass the test. But if gender inequality is no longer a problem, why is it so hard for Hollywood to make a movie about anything other than boys and their issues?
Next: can we come up with a similar test for popular music?
2 days ago