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How many movies succeed in representing women as complex human beings, with a life beyond their relationship to a man? This is the question behind the iconic Bechdel test, which has been used to evaluate movies since Alison Bechdel wrote about it in a comic called “The Rule,” part of her series Dykes To Watch Out For, in the 1980s.

This video essay from No Film School breaks down everything you need to know about the Bechdel test in five minutes, diving into its history (the concept can be traced back to Virginia Woolf!), its usage, and what it means for pop culture today.


The Bechdel test asks three simple questions: Does the movie have at least two women characters? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk to each other about something besides a man?

But according to No Film School, the answers it reveals are a lot more complex. If a movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, it doesn’t necessarily mean that movie can’t have a feminist message. And just because a movie does pass the Bechdel test, doesn’t mean it’s a feminist movie.

Ultimately, the Bechdel test is about the way our culture conditions us to think about women. And even though there are a lot more movies that pass the Bechdel test today than back when the term was coined, we’ve got more work to do. Watch the video below. 

No Film School.


Top photo: Ghostbusters

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Rachele Merliss is a writer, theatre maker, and wannabe witch from Lincoln, Nebraska. She is currently a senior at Wesleyan University, majoring in American Studies with a minor in creative writing. She's also the writer & director of the webseries Saint Bitch, coming soon to YouTube. Watch the trailer here & follow Rachele on Twitter at @rachele_mermaid.