Friday 30 July 2021

Home - Academic - What is The Bechdel Test and Why You Should Know it?

24 Frames – Shahrzad Dadgar: The strong presence of women in any society is one of the features of its cultural progress. Hence, in the cultural studies of societies, a considerable part is devoted to the analysis of the presence of women in artistic and cultural works; An analysis that has also been considered in cinema. In this article, according to the subject, a test called the “Bechdel Test” has been discussed.



“It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex.”

-Virginia Woolf




What is the Bechdel Test?


Bechdel test is a measure of the representation of women in fiction and television, which uses three measurement indicators to evaluate the personality of a powerful woman. This standard test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel; who introduced the idea of the test in 1985 with her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out for,” along with an adroit critique of patriarchal fictions.


The test has also been referred to as the “Bechdel–Wallace test” (which Bechdel herself prefers), the “Bechdel rule”, “Bechdel’s law”, or the “Mo Movie Measure”. The initial idea came to Bechdel when she was searching for new ideas for her comic, by her friend Liz Wallace, with who she shared the test’s credit. She later wrote that Wallace was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own.


In Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own: “All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends.” –  Also, the female characters in literary works, unlike the complex women who live and breathe in the real world, are showcased within their “Relation to Men.”



Which films are successful in the Bechdel Test?


In the Bechdel Test these three following requirements will be considered:


1. The movie has to have at least two named women characters,

2. who talk to each other,

3. about something other than falling in love with a man.


This is a test that is applied to works of fiction, including stories, novels, and films. This seems very simple, though normally plenty of Hollywood movies fail the test. Among the characters who starred in the 700 best-selling films between 2007 and 2014, only 30% were women. However, in only 11% of these films is there a gender balance between the characters who speak. Of the 30% of women who talk in movies, only a small percentage talk to other female characters, and of this small percentage, a much smaller percentage talk to each other about something other than men.



Does success in the Bechdel Test indicate that the artwork is not sexist?


Bechdel test can only measure the active presence of women in the form of stories to a certain extent. An artwork may get through this test and still contain content of sex discrimination. An artwork with prominent female protagonists may also fail in this test. On the other hand, an artwork may flunk in this test because of unrelated to gender bias reasons, for example, when the point of work act against the principles of gender equality.


Success or failure in this test does not necessarily mean that women are portrayed correctly or not. In fact, it can be acclaimed that this test is an indicator to measure the active presence of women in fiction, television, and literature, and at the same time draws attention to “gender inequality in fiction.” The media industry has depicted that films that pass the Bechdel test perform better revenue at the box office.



The last word

It’s that simple; Now you too can try out your script and get a real estimate on to what extent you are loyal to these principles. Take it and start reading. Remember the three key requirements. When you measure each sequence individually, you can finally get an approximate percentage of your screenplay’s success in the Bechdel Test; A test designed to improve the quality of the presence of influential female protagonists in film and television.




Translated by: Erfan Nazarianpour



1. www.studiobinder.com

2. www.theatlantic.com

3. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

24Frames | All About Short Films