Lord of the Rings

The Bechdel Test

There’s a lot being discussed at the moment regarding the diversity, or lack thereof, in cinema these days. With the most recent Oscar nominations, there was a bit of an uproar at how it seems to be a white boys club.

Despite some amazing talent out there, women still don’t seem be able to access the same heights as their male counterparts. The highest paid actress in 2014 (Angelina Jolie at $33million) was 10th in the list if you combined males and females. While that amount of money seems very good, if you take a look at the bigger picture, you see some very big female names earning a lot less than the men.

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One of the ways of assessing how female-friendly a film is these days is by using the Bechdel Test. The criteria for it is relatively straightforward. It consists of three rules which must all be met for it to pass the test:-

  1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it…
  2. …Who talk to each other…
  3. …About something besides a man.

You’d be surprised how many films you think would fit this criteria actually don’t.

Obviously, the rules need to be taken with a pinch of salt. You need to consider the context of a film before completely judging it. If it’s a biopic based in a man’s prison, then it’s pretty good odds there won’t be a woman involved. However, if it’s a film where there are plenty of female characters milling around, but not being utilised properly and stereotyped, that’s where we’re going to hit a problem and I think it’s the issues in these sorts of films that need to be addressed.

I’ve taken a look at my own top five films to see if they would pass or fail the Bechdel Test…

  1. The Princess Bride – FAILED

There are only two named female characters in the whole film (Buttercup and Valerie) and they don’t get the chance to interact. I don’t really mind the character of Buttercup, but I do find her a little bit too helpless. And that scene with the ROUS always annoys me because she just stands there while Westley is getting attacked, when she could at least try to help.

2. Some Like it Hot – PASSED

Even if you’re not classing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as women in this, it still passes the test thanks to the scenes on the train. If you are, then it passes with flying colours!

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3. Life is Beautiful – FAILED

Again, very few named female characters in this. Though the heart of the story comes from the father-son relationship and Guido trying to protect his son in the concentration camp.

4. Lord of the Rings – FAILED

It fails over all three films. Granted, they were working off the original text and Tolkien doesn’t have a great number of female characters (in The Hobbit, Peter Jackson had to create a female character since there were none included in the book). Even though it fails the test, its redeeming factor is that the few named female characters are pretty bad-ass. Case and point, Eowyn’s battle with the Witch King.

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 5. Pan’s Labyrinth – PASSED

A lot of interaction between two female characters here (mother and daughter). Plus it’s a real plus that the central protagonist, Ofelia, is a very strong character, despite being so young.

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How do your own favourite films measure up against the test?

xoxo

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