I recently researched an agent to submit my book to who mentioned that she liked to receive stories that passed the Bechdel test. Intrigued, I headed to Google to find out what this is.
The Bechdel Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. There’s even a website that lists films and rates whether they pass or fail the test.
Without retreating back to my feminists studies at uni (I did Sociology) I like the idea of this because the lack of female centric films is noticeable especially oens that don’t focus on men. I like a good rom com as you know but sometimes I like to see some healthy female role models out there.
I recently watched two films that centred on female characters so I checked to see if they were listed as a pass or fail on the test.
4-3-2-1 is a British film about four girls who get tied up with a diamond heist – it passes the test because they do talk about things other than men. And I enjoyed the fact they were feisty and not damsel-in-distress girls but the film failed slightly for me on a more general feminist level because three of the girls appear several times either in their underwear or fully naked and it’s not really integral to the plot. It feels like the male movie makers are trying to get men to watch the film, which for me defeats the object of having a female centric film in the first place.
The second film was Thirteen, a controversial look at two teenage girls co-written by a teenage Nikki Reed. This film also passes the test and is an authentic look at the issues teenage girls can face. Although you never fully get to grips with why they behave the way they do, I liked how complex their characters were and the documentary feel to the film.
So although I like the idea of this test, I think there are more things to consider when looking a piece of work and deciding whether it is really a step forward for women in films. I am impressed that a literary agent considers this when reviewing a manuscript and I’d definitely like to read more female centric books. I love a good romance but I also like to see strong women and that’s probably why my own writing veers more to the style and issue-driven focus of Thirteen.
Are female centric films important to you? Have you seen a film lately that passed or failed the Bechdel test?