If you were to asked to script a conversation between two women, what would you base it on? Motherhood? Cooking? The old hag of the block? Well, according to Alison Bechdel, when women are portrayed on-screen, the dialogue between them will most likely be centered around men.
The theory surrounding this claim, the Bechdel Test, measures the female presence in a film/show. To pass the test, a piece must meet the following three requirements.
1.) Does it contain at least two women in it, who
2.) Talk to each other, about
3.) Something besides a man
Would it surprise you to discover a substantial amount of movies don’t pass? Someone even created a website database outlining whether popular movies pass or fail.
*Caution*: Many people interpret the test incorrectly. It’s not a test to determine whether a film or show is sexist or bad. It’s to highlight that a vast majority of movies are male-centered. But as a female, some facts about the industry are hard to ignore.
Why don’t many films pass?
- Could it be that film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the test?
- Or could it be simply that most directors are men, and don’t know how to correctly depict women?
Of course some won’t pass the test, simply because they’re about stereotypically male themes (war, action, cars, etc.). But the core reason remains unknown. And failing the Bechdel test is not an indicator of quality. But now that you’re looking, you’ll see movies that fail everywhere.
1.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: FAILED
Despite the fact that there are several female characters, none of them actually converse with each other. There are little comments made by characters to other female characters, but there is not actual conversation. Maybe the film could have received the green light if the interaction between Bellatrix and Mrs. Weasley had been more than just calling Bellatrix a b****.
2.) Lord of the Rings Trilogy: FAILED
You would expect with so many strong female characters, there would be some interaction between them all…but nope. During the entire trilogy female characters never actually speak to each other. Weird if you go back and watch all three with this in mind, huh?
3.) Shrek: FAILED
Sadly, Shrek fails the second level of the Bechdel Test. None of the female characters engage in conversation. Although most of the dialogue was between Shrek and Donkey, it would have been simple to give one of the many female characters a line or two. (The dragon in love with Donkey maybe and the princess she has held captive?)
4.) The Princess Bride: FAILED
Unfortunately since I grew up on this movie, it’s a dagger to my heart to have to put this on the fail list. It came so close, but grievously, the conversations between two women ALWAYS revolves around men.
It’s easy to pass the Bechdel Test, and there are plenty of movies that do.
As a filmmaker, all you need to do is have more than one female character, and have them converse about something other than men… like shoes!