Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bechdel Rule

Callaghan raises questions (although doesn't necessarily answer them) about the role of women in social media--especially film. Through Owen, Callaghan explores what sometimes happens when a man--even with the best intentions--tries to create female characters.

It's hard to argue that Hollywood privileges male characters. Perhaps you are familiar with the Bechdel Rule. Named for its originator, Alison Bechdel, creator of a weekly comic strip in the 80s called "Dykes to Watch Out For," the Bechdel test is simple. A character in the comic strip refuses to watch a movie unless it meets the following criteria:

1) It has to have at least two women in it (named characters only, faceless baristas do not count)
2) Who talk to each other
3) About something other than a man.

While more movies in 2010 meet these requirements than when Bechdel's strip first appeared in 1983, it's shocking how many movies still fail (44 in 2010 according to the The Bechdel Test Movie List including some that might surprise you).

Perhaps not every movie needs to pass. Saving Private Ryan would lose something with a cut away shot of two women discussing the weather. But if you're looking for a fun Thanksgiving Dinner game for the family, try listing as many films you can think of that pass--bonus points for action films.

Have a favorite movie that passes--or doesn't pass--the Bechdel test? Think this test is stupid or irrelevant? Go ahead and let us know in the comments section.

And as a bonus, here's's Female Character Flow Chart. Try to figure out where Agnes and Val fit in!


  1. I can't think of a single movie I've seen recently, that would pass the test. Perhaps even more troubling since most of the movies I've seen lately are kids' animated movies (Megamind, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3 ... ). I have to go to independent lesbian-oriented films to get away from the enforced obsession female characters have with men and their doings.

    Does it count if two women are talking about their children (as opposed to men)?

  2. That's an interesting question. I would say that discussing their children does count as a non-male conversation unless the women are speaking about the children in the context of the children's father.

    Aside from lovers, what would not count would be women discussing fathers, bosses, criminals, acquaintances, teachers etc