NPR did a segment on the Bechdel Test a couple days ago. It was created by awesome cartoonist Alison Bechdel (“Dykes to Watch Out For”, “Fun Home,”) in this comic, where one of the characters says that she only watches a movie if:
1) The movie contains more than one female character;
2) Who talk to each other;
3) About something besides a man.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Nope. The Bechdel Test is surprisingly hard to satisfy. Pixar movies mostly fail, with the exception of the Incredibles and A Bug’s Life. Pretty much any big mainstream popcorn-action movie (The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spiderman, Hellboy, Transformers, Indiana Jones, James Bond) – fail.
The Bechdel Test has spawned other tests:
- The Deggans Rule – 1. At least two nonwhite characters in the main cast…2. in a show that’s not about race.
- The Morales Rule – 1. Nobody calls anybody Papi. 2. No dancing to salsa music. 3. No gratuitous Spanish.
- The Frank Miller Test – Is the proportion of female sex workers to neutrally presented female people in his story greater than 1:1?
- Does your story contain only one prominent female character? If so, please check the reasons that you included that character and made her female…
After seeing the last episode (warning: spoiler) of the Wire (Season 5) last night, I hereby propose another test:
The Goldensilverblattcohenstein test: If there is only one explicitly Jewish character (Jewish name, use of Yiddish, mention of brisket), is he a greedy dishonest lawyer with a big nose? Yes? FAIL.
For more, The Hathor Legacy has a series of posts explaining why film schools teach screenwriters to fail the Bechdel Test. And Karen Healey explains how to write a female character that doesn’t drive her crazy.