The Bechdel Test

Two friends discuss the following subjects over lunch: projects they’re currently working on; agenda topics for an upcoming board meeting; plans for the weekend; current events and the silent rise of China; a BBC documentary on Britain in the 1970s; The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and its impact on modern day Middle Eastern politics; The Bechdel Test.

Can you guess their gender from their conversation?

The correct answer is female, but if you write for film, television or a large percentage of book fiction, they could only be male. According to most films and TV shows, two women talking together can only discuss one subject – the men in their lives!

Enter The Bechdel Test. Put simply, for a story to pass The Bechdel Test, it must meet the following 3 requirements:

1) It must contain at least one scene with two named women in it…

2) Who talk to each other…

3) About something besides a man.

One scene. It’s not really aiming the bar very high, is it?  But it’s depressing how few films manage to achieve even that.

Here is a list of famous movies that fail The Bechdel Test. The Social Network, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Avatar, The original Star Wars Trilogy, The entire Lord of the Rings Saga, Run Lola Run. (To read why, click here.)

And here are some more popular films that also failed.  The Dark Knight, Ghostbusters, Wall-E, Pirates of the Carribbean (all), Men in Black, Austin Powers (all), The Princess Bride, Braveheart, When Harry Met Sally, Home Alone, Shrek, Gladiator, Up.

What I find depressing about the second list is how many of those films were geared towards women and children.

So, all you writers out there, I challenge you to include at least one – just one – scene in your story, whether it’s for the screen or page, that would pass The Bechdel Test.

And if you’re still reading this post… here’s an interesting article on how Shakespeare fares when you apply The Bechdel Test to his works. You might be surprised!