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):

Texts mentioned in this episode:

  • Zootropolis (Zootopia)
  • Trolls
  • Frozen
  • Gravity
  • 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
  • Thor
  • Mulan
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Arrival
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bridesmaids
  • Friends
  • The Walking Dead
  • Game of Thrones
  • Star Trek
  • Rogue One
  • Alien