The Bechdel Test: Overextended Intentions?

Well it was introduced to me from an old episode of the short-lived Thrash lab series, The Factuary on What do Feminists Have Left? and it mentions the part about the Bechdel Test. What is this test you say? Well it’s pretty much a very straightforward test written into a 1985 strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. Created by of course… American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Anyway the criteria for this test from that strip goes as follows:

In order to pass this test, it must have:

  • Have at least two women
  • Get them to talk to each other
  • Of anything other than a man

Sounds pretty simple right? Well coming across this site, It tells me something really differently. The Bechdel test is a measure of gender bias in movies, at least that’s what they say so far.  Exploring this site and reading most of the comments in a scant selection of films and their arguments. It sort of drives me to one viable conclusion:

That the Bechdel test for all intents and purposes, is way too easy to be used even as a measuring stick for spotting gender bias in movies.

What I mean by that is that from the arguments and the criteria, this test can’t that easy from the get-go. Because depending on perspective and the appearance of bias, many movies seem to pass or fail the test based on these flaws alone. What I think of these criteria, I think if there are any set limits involved to make the test more practical because under those three rules alone: Any movie is vulnerable from major culture-changing blockbusters to forgettable indie fare. There are already derivative tests made for articles for women in science (Finkbeiner) and another about LGBT characters in media (Russo).

Here is what I have about the test:

What if that “man” was a friend or family member that the woman cares for? How many instances does these theoretical two women talk about the man before it can be considered a fail? One? Two? Three-Strikes Methodology? What that conversation was suggesting that it “could” be about a man?  Let’s go as far as saying that does the orientation of said man matter? This is just a small example of what needs to be considered when reviewing a movie for gender bias.

I even wonder what Bechdel thinks of this idea 29 years since the strip that made the test that bares her name. I would think that it is important that when setting a standard of what does or doesn’t make good media representation in well… media, All these things must be considered or else the platform could be wide open and easily accuse any piece of media, just for being biased.

Also to conclude, who is to say that this test can be applied to just movies? What about TV, movies, popular books and even plays? Those would have been blown away by now. If there was some consideration, an enhanced version of the test can be made and see how that would work. If you think that I’m over-thinking this, fine. But you need to think closely without bias before putting judgement into a movie if it has anything to do with what I mentioned above.


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