Back in 1985, cartoonist Alison Bechdel drew a “Dykes To Watch Out For” cartoon describing the three rules that govern whether or not she will see a movie, which she called “The Bechdel Test“:
- It has to have two women in it who have names,
- Who talk to each other,
- About something besides a man.
Bechdel’s point was that the majority of mainstream films relegate women to the role of “girlfriend,” “wife” or “princess in a tower who needs to be saved by a knight in shining arming” and this is problematic for women’s substantive representation in film. Unfortunately, 25 years later, a lot of movies still don’t pass the Bechdel test, including 2012 Oscar nominees.
As Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency demonstrates in this video, “Moneyball” fails the test badly, as it doesn’t have any two female cast members who talk to each other at all. “The Tree Of Life” doesn’t pass and neither does “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” The children’s film “Hugo” passes with a whopping five seconds of dialog and “Midnight In Paris” barely passes with about 15 seconds of dialog about the dense and important topic of purchasing furniture. ”The Artist” is a silent film, so Anita Sarkeesian included any sort of communication — like hand or facials gestures — as speech. Surprisingly, it still didn’t pass.
“The Descendents” passes the test, as there are several scenes in which the two daughters talk to each other, and despite its other problematic issues involving the depiction of race, ”The Help” actually passes “The Bechdel Test,” too. So out of nine best picture nominees, only two clearly pass “The Bechdel Test” and two others have less than 15 seconds of dialog. And if you include race as a factor — two characters of color, who talk to each other, about something other than a white person — out of all nine films, only “The Help” passes.
When Feminist Frequency spells it out like this, it’s pretty grim. [YouTube]
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.