a man

The Bechdel Test–named for the cartoonist Alison Bechdel who wrote a long-running comic strip called Dykes To Watch Out For and the critically acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home–is a test to assess whether women have a meaningful presence in a movie. It consists of three questions.

  1. Are there two or more women in it that have names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

Once you start thinking about it, you’ll be surprised by how many films don’t pass this test. In fact, there are entire genres (e.g., action-adventure) that seem to fail the Bechdel Test, by and large.

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Not surprisingly, male-centric movies such as Fight Club, or Lawrence of Arabia, or Das Boot don’t pass the test. But as Rachel Sklar points out, other notable nonpassing movies include:

  • Shrek
  • Clerks
  • Big Lebowski
  • Home Alone
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Truman Show
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Tomb Raider
  • and even The Princess Bride

This test doesn’t judge the quality of the movie or whether it is misogynistic, only that it doesn’t portray the interaction of two women with names dealing with something other than a man.

You are to perform the Bechdel Test for any movie that has been released this year or the previous year. You need to view the movie with the Bechdel questions in hand (you cannot simply try to “remember” if any such conversations happened, you need to watch a movie while looking for it). You can view the film in a theatre or in your home.

After you have done so, you are to write a 300-500 word (approximately) essay that does the following:

  • Briefly discusses what the Bechdel Test is for and what it does and does not tell us about a movie.
  • Give the name of the movie you are analyzing and when (specifically) you watched it.
  • Clearly state whether the movie passed the test.
  • Give detailed answers to the Bechtel Test questions and discuss implications (Who are the women characters? What do they talk about? How is the presence of women in the film different from that of men?)
  • Were you surprised by what you learned completing this assignment? Why or why not?

 

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