Back in 1985, Alison Bechdel had the characters of her cartoon strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, jokingly make a gender equality ‘test’ for films. 33 years later, the Bechdel (or Bechdel-Wallace, to give credit to her friend Liz Wallace for the idea) test is still used to determine whether a film has any claim to equality of representation within films (as well as books, comics, etc).
The test is a very simple one: two women have to have a conversation about something other than a man. This is not a high bar. And yet… many pieces of fiction continue to fail. Not only that, the test itself fails to pick up a lot of other issues in narratives. For instance, are the two women who speak the only two women in the film? What about women of colour? Non-binary actors or characters?
The Bechdel-Wallace test should be applauded for getting the conversation started, but we believe it is time to move on. We should be demanding that a higher bar is set and that our media passes more often than not. But what would such a test look like?
Further reading (in other words, all the articles we reference during the episode):
- The origins of the test
- We’re still talking about the Bechdel test because our major film releases continue to fail it.
- Even stories that pass the Bechdel-Wallace test can massively let women down
- What about the screen time and amount of dialogue spoken? https://pudding.cool/2017/03/
film-dialogue/ and http://www.indiewire.com/2017/ 08/men-speak-women-films- study-1201863729/
- Other gender parity tests for fiction works
- Mako Mori test
- What would the ideal gender balance test look like? What is missing from the Bechdel test?
Texts mentioned in this episode:
- Zootropolis (Zootopia)
- Legally Blond
- Never Been Kissed
- Ever After
- Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins by RJ Barker
- Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
- The Whitby Witches and The Wyrd Museum by Robin Jarvis
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Walking Dead
- Game of Thrones
- Star Trek
- Rogue One