The Bechdel Test: 30 Days of Women in Entertainment

As promised – I’m unveiling a project for the month of June and it revolves around The Bechdel Test:

Those of you who don’t want to click the link or watch the video: The Bechdel Test is a simple test which rates movies with the following criteria: It has to have two or more women in it. With names. Who talk to each other. About something besides a man (or men).

Here’s the comic strip from which the rule originated:

For the entire month of June I will be applying the Bechdel Test to every form of entertainment I consume – books, movies, TV Shows, and video games. I’ll be reporting each Bechdel test here as the month progresses, and then at the end give a summary of the findings.

If you scroll through the comments on this video, there are a lot of nay-sayers and decriers claiming that the test is a sham and doesn’t indicate quality of the content. Of course it doesn’t. That’s not the point. One of the main points, for me, is helping my male readers to truly understand what it feels like on the other end of the spectrum, and what better way than to take a month-long journey into a world where you are consistently under-represented.

Do I have any doubt that the project will result in women being categorically under-represented in all forms of my entertainment? No. Another point of this under-taking is to seriously examine what I’m consuming, and once I’ve done that…make better choices about my entertainment.

I’ve added a twist to be sure that people will not be able to discount my journey come the 30th of the month. I will also be applying the Bechdel Test to the mens in the film.

Are there two or more men? Do they have names? Do they talk to one another? Do they talk about something other than women? A conversation about a woman occurring in a film between two men does not automatically make it a Bechdel movie. A woman has to be the ONLY topic of conversation between the men.

So – I’m making an effort to be fair here and applying the test to the male gender as well, for those among us who like to play devil’s advocate. I’m interested to hear predictions about the outcomes of this experiment.

I only found out about the Bechdel Test this past Friday, but was so enamored with it, I wanted to put it into practice immediately. And I’ve been doing it all weekend with my entertainment. Finished up Dead in the Family and it passed. As did Lost (as a series).

I’m certainly not the first person to try the Bechdel Test in this kind of format. Nor will I be the last. But I’m hoping that this month-long experiment will yield something positive in the long-term. Hope you’ll stick around!

I’ll be updating as frequently as I consume the material, but I’m trying to approach this organically, and won’t be consuming more or less in this month than I would in any other month. Usually try to update the blog at least three times a week. 🙂


About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

6 responses to “The Bechdel Test: 30 Days of Women in Entertainment”

  1. Addie says :

    I told you about the Bechdel Test on Facebook about 6 mos. ago – apparently it didn’t stick. Glad you are revisiting it, and I think that applying it in the opposite direction will reinforce just how lopsided things are.

    This is the entry I think I linked you to 6 mos. ago and if you only glanced at it then it’s worth a read as you do this. It was written by someone who was learning screenwriting from within the industry and reveals a lot about how much the industry is set in its ways, even in the face of evidence that breaking the mold works. It’s infuriating.

    I saw your exchange with Jasmin re: Avatar, and I’m bothered by the whitewashing in movies, too. I suspect that in the racial sphere, people have also been trying to come up with an equivalent of the Bechdel test, where characters in minorities are more than stereotypes or set dressing. I see more of this discussion in television though, where there’s more flexibility to bring in people of color. Often, though, the shows that are praised for being diverse (Glee comes to mind as the most recent) still put the white characters front and center as the main protagonists. LOST, of course, is another one.

    I also feel like LOST’s passing the Bechdel test is practically on a technicality – that the show went on for six years so at some point in time women had to talk to eachother about something other than men. But every single main female character’s story arc boiled down to their romantic pairing with a male character – and the finale just reinforced that, with making a point to have reunion scenes with Claire / Charlie and Kate / Jack despite Claire and Kate’s “wake-up” being due to their own unique relationship. I was really relieved to see the Kate and Claire relationship emerge, but it was problematic because by the time it did, we all hated Kate. It just sucks that there were so many awesome female characters and we didn’t get to see any of them build up real relationships with eachother (Kate / Claire outstanding) or to have any of them lack a love interest.

    Will be interested to see your discoveries – this kind of stuff changes the way you view your media, and I think you’ll find that even the stuff you love the very most comes away guilty and problematic. But that makes the successes (have I waved the Millenium Trilogy around enough yet?) that much more wonderful (although the Millenium Trilogy has one big weakness – despite being rife with strong women, all of these strong women decide to sleep with the main male character, except for his sister, for obvious reasons).

    • tinyheroes says :

      Dude – sorry I blanked on the Bechdel Test thing…perhaps I wasn’t ready for it at the time. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad that you sent me the link again. Quite an interesting read. The Bechdel Test has actually also forced me to look at my own writing…much of which contains strong female leads, or multiple female characters that only passably talk to each-other about something besides men. Hah – that definitely hit home to me about what a huge and kind of insiduous beast this is.

      It’s really causing me to wonder why females are so alienated from one another. What is so scary about women talking to or liking one another? Especially if the almighty plot is being advanced. It’s strange…and I’m further compelled to see just how far down the rabbit hole it goes. I know Hollywood is rotten with it (as are most comic books) but I’m taking aim at all the mediums I indulge in.

      • Addie says :

        Hmm. I don’t think the idea of women talking to or liking one another is scary to most women, but I think it is scary to a lot of the men who are calling the shots on these things. It’s scary to the people who are in charge, and maybe they’re the only ones in the entire population who feel threatened by this, but it’s clear that they do.

        I’ve been listening to “The Feminine Mystique” on audiobook over the last month or so and I was reminded of the linked blog post about the Bechdel Test while listening to Betty Friedan talk about how women’s magazines in the 1950’s. Male editors telling female contributors how women worked. “Women aren’t interested in politics. You can’t talk to them about serious stuff unless it is tied to the home.” The creepy thing was that the idea of women being only interested in homemaking was a message that (middle-class, white – that’s where this book is problematic, in its exclusions) women took for fact and tried to perpetuate themselves. And they found it wasn’t true, and were really confused about the messaging they were being sent and their reality. Thus the inspiration for the book.

        But the magazine thing was the same business model – a reliance on this model that had no basis in reality but the people in charge, once they had established it from duct tape and baling wire, felt like challenging the model was too risky for their business. Even though they reflected an imaginary population. It’s totally insane.

        Think of how much less messed up a lot of women, and men, would be if we hadn’t been sold a story of women that is “the story of women as interpreted by the male gaze” and not a real story. Lord knows the entertainment industry could stand to break out of the male gaze mold – think of the boundless new storytelling opportunities that would emerge. Even innovative shows like LOST relied on a ton of old male gaze tropes; how much better would it have been if it wasn’t constricted to that model? And so few of us challenge it because we are so completely used to it.

        I can go on and on about this. So I’m glad you’re exploring it and equally passionate about it.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Also – Lost just barely passed. If you were to test it episode by episode, I’m sure it would be a resounding failure.

  2. Addie says :

    Oops – mentioned that blog post and then didn’t include the link. Here it is.

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