Pop Theory: The Bechdel Test

28 Dec

You know how it is – harmless status comment discussions on Facebook that ultimately lead to friends pointing out pop-fem theory, and your subsequently @-ing other friends, then “like”-ing the gesture – here’s what I learned:

Bechdel Test

[…. A]n uncomplicated test for films to determine gender bias. The Bechdel test (also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, the Bechdel rule, or Bechdel’s law) is credited to Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace,and appears in a 1985 [comic] strip entitled “The Rule.” One of the characters says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man.

A variant of the test, in which the two women must additionally be named characters, is also called the Mo Movie Measure. The name is a misnomer as neither Mo nor the other regular characters had been introduced yet at the time of this strip’s publication.

A blog was formed to review films on whether or not they pass this test. The Bechdel Test Movie List allows users to add their own movies.

I….Didn’t know whether or not to take this seriously as an analytic at first, but, lo and behold, a simple Google search confirmed its legitimacy, sad as it is; despite one’s general knowledge of how much and how often most artistic output – primarily entertainment-based or not (and shame on me for thinking that items which are mostly for entertainment value are somehow negligible?!) – fall short of fully-realized character formation, particularly when it comes to female subjectivity, this still shocks me. The simplicity of the Bechdel Test tenets, coupled with our so-called decades of progress, produces a great deal of dismay at the recognition of just how difficult it has been to “simply” progress. (See Miss Representation for an excellent documentary on the matter.)

Yet, let’s think productively now – this analytic allows us to discuss the reality of female representation in said media with discursive cohesion, i.e.

Friend 1: The trailer for xxxxxxxxxx looks super enticing – let’s go see it this weekend?!
Friend 2: Does it pass the Bechdel Test? *Explains.*
Friend 1: Uh. *Formulates and delivers conjecture.*
Friend 2: *Makes and communicates informed decision.*

I’m conceptualizing the Bechdel Test as a trinket on my bracelet of pop theory, and a pretty and useful one at this – I can readily whip out this easily-articulated nugget at any time, make convincing arguments, and come off as intelligible, without the trouble of “high” theoretical speak – try it sometime!

And all this from a comment thread on Bridesmaids. Well.

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