Does Your Favorite Movie Pass the Bechdel Test?

Image Credit: Universal and Warner Brothers

Image Credit: Universal and Warner Brothers

I thought since March is Women's History Month, I would do a few posts to celebrate the amazing women in film, both real and fictional who have inspired me. To kick things off will be a post looking at how women are represented in the industry in general. Especially considering all that came to light this past year about how women in the industry have been treated, hopefully, these posts will get you thinking and talking more about how women are considered both on and off screen.

In my later years of college, I began filling all of my remaining credits with film studies classes, but the one that opened my eyes the most (and even inspired my senior thesis) was one about women in film. It was in this class that I first learned about the Bechdel Test. For those of you who may not know, the Bechdel test is just a tool to help gauge how well women are represented in a certain film. In order for a movie to pass, it must meet these three requirements:

  1. The movie must have two women with names
  2. The women must speak to each other
  3. They must talk about something other than a man

Seems pretty simple right? But you would be surprised by how many famous and beloved films do not pass this test.  Now, that is not to say that in order for a movie to be good it has to meet all of these requirements or it should be disregarded. In fact, the creator herself, Alison Bechdel has stated that the test should not be the end all be all of how we look at film, but more so just a reminder of how we should be treating women on screen. For example, the extremely popular and Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk released last year would not pass the test. But that is okay because that was a true story about a group of stranded male soldiers trying to get to safety, so inserting women into it just for representation would have been a disservice to the story. However, some other films from the past year could have maybe given more consideration to this idea before writing their females roles. To see what I mean, let's take a look at how many major blockbuster films last year would pass the test. 

To do this, I am going to look at the top 20 best grossing films from 2017, and see how many pass the Bechdel test. They will be graded by Pass, Barely Pass, and Fail. I feel like I need to distinguish between meaningfully passing, and barely passing, since some films may pass if looking at it literally, but not in the sense of what the test actually represents. For example, Fate of the Furious would technically pass, because Ramsey and Letty talk, but their lines to each other consist of:

Ramsey: Tell me we're going to be okay!
Letty: We got this!

Not exactly what we are looking for, but as far as passing on a technical note, it does. So I felt I needed to distinguish the difference in my voting. On that note, here we go!

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Pass
2. Beauty and the Beast: Pass
3. Wonder Woman: Pass
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Pass
5. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Pass
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming: Barely Pass
7. It: Barely Pass
8. Thor: Ragnarok: Fail
9. Despicable Me 3: Pass
10. Justice League: Barely Pass
11. Logan: Barely Pass
12. The Fate of the Furious: Barely Pass
13. Coco: Barely Pass
14. Dunkirk: Fail
15. Get Out: Pass
16. The Lego Batman Movie: Barely Pass
17. Boss Baby: Fail
18. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Fail
19. Kong: Skull Island: Fail
20. Cars 3: Barely Pass

So let's total this up:
Pass: 7/20
Barely Pass: 8/20
Fail: 5/20

So that means if we are looking at films that meaningfully passed the test, it is only 35% of the top 20 films last year. And while this is defiantly better than in the past, and it is amazing that the top three films do have women in the leading roles, it still says a lot about what we are supporting at the box office. For example, many of the popular films that pass the test with flying colors such as Pitch Perfect 3, Girls Trip, Atomic Blonde, Ghost in the Shell, and Lady Bird did not even make the top 25 films. Now as I said, we should not take this test to be our bible when watching movies, but it just helps put into perspective a little more how we could be doing a better job of both showing women on screen, and showing up to support women on screen if we want things to change. 

Does your favorite movie pass the Bechdel Test? Let me know in the comments below! And let me know your thoughts on how women were shown in movies last year, I can't wait to hear your views! 

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