The Bechdel Test: What it is and how it affects film


Courtesy of Erik Mclean on Unsplash

According to Dominick Ervelli, passing the Bechdel Test should be the minimum for the film industry. 

Nicole Hasek

Women are often underrepresented in film, but it happens more often than many people think. According to an article from The Pudding, almost 40 percent of films fail the Bechdel Test, which is where two female characters talk to each other about anything other than a man.

In 1985, Alison Bechdel created this test with her comic strip “The Rule” to see if film gives a fair representation of women.

Some popular movies that fail this test, according to Film School Rejects, include the original Star Wars trilogy, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Social Network and even the highest grossing film of all time: Avatar. Most of these movies do not even have a conversation between women, even with a large cast.

“I believe that the Bechdel Test is certainly important in film, but I also believe it should be treated as a bare minimum,” said Dominick Ervelli, the Film Producer’s Club president and senior in English at Iowa State. “Women are often underrepresented in cinema, and simply passing the Bechdel Test with brief, inconsequential conversations shouldn’t constitute as enough. Filmmakers should strive to make women an integral part of their stories and make sure they have meaningful interactions with one another that have ramifications on the plot.”

While the Film Producer’s Club has many male members and cannot always pass this test when they create films, Ervelli ensures that they take it into consideration when viewing and critiquing professional film.

Even without passing the Bechdel Test, it is still possible for a movie to show feminist themes in a more obvious way, as this test is not always known to movie-goers. Bustle states that some films, such as A Star is Born (2018), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and 500 Days of Summer do not pass the test due limited characters, but still give a backstory and independence to the female characters.

“If the filmmakers are focused on creating a film with strong and well-developed female characters, I don’t believe they are concerned with passing the Bechdel Test. This isn’t because they don’t believe passing the test is important, but because they know their film will exceed the qualifications for the Bechdel Test,” Ervelli said. “Unfortunately, it seems like many filmmakers only strive to meet the bare minimum for passing the test or do not attempt to pass it at all.”

Gamesradar provided a list of movies that pass the Bechdel Test for viewers who consider this when choosing a film. According to the article, films such as Frozen, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, Hidden Figures, Bridesmaids, The Hunger Games, Scream and Wonder Woman all pass.

“I absolutely believe that more movies should pass the Bechdel Test. Not enough films pass the test on even a bare minimum level, which is incredibly disappointing,” Ervelli said.

While it may not be the first thing most people look for in film, passing the Bechdel test and creating independent and complex female characters can add a sense of feminism that many people find important.