Every summer we are treated to a slew of supposed blockbusters specifically designed to knock off socks, or at the very least, give us somewhere cool and dark to sit for twoish hours. Certainly this season will be no different, judging from Hollywood’s attempts to revive The Karate Kid, Predators, Cats and Dogs (…?), the Toy Story franchise (!!), and The A-Team (which, I have to admit, just will not be the same without Mr. T…Bradley Cooper or not.). Of course there is also the inevitable Twilight: Eclipse, the obligatory action film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and the mandatory sensitive Michael Cera flick, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World.
Regardless, I don’t plan to tell you what to see this summer. Watch whatever you’re down with; it’s clearly your choice.
I just want to offer a brief proposal. Throughout your media consumption this summer, ask yourself these three questions.
1. Are there at least two women in this film? 2. …who talk to each other? 3. …about something besides a man?
If your answer is yes to all three, then the film has passed the Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test was popularized by Alison Bechdel in her comic, Dykes to Watch Out For, specifically in a 1985 strip called The Rule. At the beginning of the strip, Bechdel thanks friend Liz Wallace, who she claims originated the test, leading it to also be referred to as the Bechdel-Wallace Test. If you tack on another bit of potential criteria--whether or not the women are given names--then you wind up with the "Mo Movie Measure," named after a character from DTWOF.
If you’re boggled as to how this could really be that difficult, check out this video from Feminist Frequency.
Think you can suggest a few? This Bechdel Test website has a list on which you can also comment and dispute. The Bechdel Test page at TVTropes.org also compiles more than just film in their selection of categories.
Take the time and go through your favorite films, books, TV shows, even comics. There are a number of media to which this test can be applied. Note: Passing the test does not mean that the movie (or whatever) is good, bad, or even absolutely feminist in nature. As the video mentioned, it is only used to check for an independent female presence and voice, which oftentimes seems to be missing.
What would you nominate? What doesn't pass the test at all?
[image from Alison Bechdel's blog, all info from the aforementioned sites]
Special thanks to the lovely Amanda Santangelo for showing me this video.