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Check Out Media Services' Latest Whiteboard--a Bechdel Test Report Card

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Media Services white board with films rated by the Bechdel Test,

What’s the theme of this week’s whiteboard? Why, the Bechdel Test, of course!

The Bechdel Test originated in a 1985 strip of Dykes to Watch Out For, a comic by renowned cartoonist (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Alison Bechdel. In order for a movie to pass her test, it must:

  1. Feature two or more named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

The Bechdel Test is meant to be a quick tool you can use to judge how well women are represented in a movie, and will hopefully get you thinking about the gender dynamics you see on screen. It is admittedly a low bar—a movie can pass with just one line of dialogue between two women.

However, it’s frustrating that so many movies made today fail to pass, more than twenty years after the test’s inception. It’s also an incomplete measurement. Star Wars: A New Hope really, really fails the Bechdel Test, but it introduced the world to Princess Leia, who takes over her own rescue operation after Luke, Han, and Chewie start floundering. Four decades later, most recent addition to the main Star Wars films, Star Wars: The Last Jedi barely passes the Bechdel Test, but women like Rey, Rose, Leia, and Admiral Holdo are essential to the plot.

So, what’s a girl to do? We here in Media Services ultimately decided to use the Bechdel Test, but move beyond a simple Pass/Fail grade as we judged our some of our favorite movies. If a movie passed the test by the skin of its teeth, we gave it a passing grade—anything from a C- to an A+. However, if it failed the Bechdel Test, it automatically got an F. Women make up 50% of the world’s population. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a movie where two of them talk to each other about something other than a man.

You can find all of the DVDs on our whiteboard in the Media Services Collection at the AU Library.

Movies That Pass:


Movies that Fail: