Media criticism / Pop-Culture / The Bechdel Test

The Oscars and the Bechdel Test

The media is full of news about the upcoming Oscars. The Oscars were started to award the best films and performances, with categories including “Best Picture” “Best Actor” “Best Supporting Actor” “Best Animated Film”, etc.the-oscars-logo

It shouldn’t be hard for the nine films nominated for Best Picture to include a strong portrayal of women – right? According to the New Yorker, only four of the nine films for Best Picture actually pass the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test is a pretty simple test, which shouldn’t be difficult to pass. Unfortunately far too movies can’t pass it. It demands three things:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. The women have to talk to each other.
3. The women have to have a conversation about something other than a man.

Sooooo difficult.

On the homepage of the New Yorker viewers are asked “How Sexist are the Nominees?”  with a link to a quiz about the Oscars.

The quiz provides comparisons betweens oscar nominated movies, and “favorites from the past”.  At the end of the quiz the site informs that of the nine nominated movies, only four pass the Bechdel Test:

1. American Hustleamerican-hustle-poster-2
2. Dallas Buyers Club
3. Nebraska
4. Philomena

The movies that didn’t pass?

1. Captain Phillips
2. Gravity
3. Her
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Wolf of Wall Street 12 yrs a slave

I’m not surprised about “Captain Phillips”, though I didn’t get around to seeing it, I don’t recall seeing a single female in the entire trailer. I’ll give “Gravity” a pass being that from what I gathered there’s only really two characters at all, that being George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. At least one of them was a female! But “Her” and “12 Years a Slave” were both highly disappointing since both films had strong female characters – Samantha and Patsey. After seeing that neither of these films could pass the Bechdel Test my love of them has slightly dropped. I’m not saying the test is perfect, but it’s not that difficult either. I couldn’t be more un-shocked about the Wolf of Wall Street.

Thanks New Yorker for drawing people’s attention to this sexism that still exists. The silver lining of the oscars? We at least have Ellen DeGeneres as the host.

For a further list of movies that do or do not pass the Bechdel Test check out:

One thought on “The Oscars and the Bechdel Test

  1. You see how limited the Bechdel Test is, but you still want to use it. At very least there needs to be a third category for Exempt or N/A or something. This is for films that due to setting/limited cast/other reasonable factors MUST fail the test. Gravity with only two characters shouldn’t “Fail”, but N/A.

    So this year 4 passed, 2-3 where N/A, and 2-3 failed. (I would argue Wolf of Wall Street being about a real person in a real place at a real time that was white male only, should get N/A just like a film set in a prison or on a Sub)

    Also, how are the films judged? If a 15 min conversation between two named female characters includes a single reference to a person that may or may not have a penis, does this count?

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