Everyone knows this one! This is from Alison Bechdel’s ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ (she’s a really great comic writer, I would highly recommend her ‘Fun Home’).
- Does the film have at least two female characters who have names?
- Do these two female characters talk to each other?
- Do these two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man?
- Do the female characters talk to each other about something other than a man for more than sixty seconds?
Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency suggested the fourth requirement in 2012 in her video analysing whether the 2011 Academy Award nominees for best picture passed the test. I’m sure most people have seen it, but if you haven’t, she’s always worth a watch.
Mako Mori Test:
This one came about after the release of ‘Pacific Rim’ in 2013 (which I kind-of love. I don’t know why). Although it does not pass the Bechdel test because of the lack of female characters other than the lovely Mako Mori, it does have quite a feminist message, especially for a (admittedly rather silly) action movie. Tumblr user chaila suggested a revised version of the Bechdel test:
- Does the film have at least one female character?
- Does this female character get her own narrative arc?
- Is this narrative arc not about supporting a man’s story?
Racial Bechdel Test:
Proposed by many such as those from http://www.theangryblackwoman.com, this is a version of the test that can be applied to race rather than gender (although, as with the rest of the tests I’m going to mention, it would obviously be great for a movie to pass all of them at once!)
- Is there more than one character of colour?
- Do these two characters have colour have a conversation?
- Is the conversation about something other than a white person?
The LGBT+ version of the Bechdel test, created by GLAAD and named after GLAAD co-founder and author of ‘The Celluloid Closet’, Vito Russo.
- Is there one character who is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, etc?
- Is this character NOT solely or predominately defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. is the character made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another)?
- Is the LGBT+ character tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect? Meaning that they are not there to simply provide colourful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline; does the character matter?
Finally, this is my one.
- Is there more than one character who has a clearly explored mental illness?
- Do these two characters have a conversation for more than sixty seconds?
- Are these characters NOT solely or predominately defined by their mental illness?
Find one movie that passes ALL of these? I’ll champion it for the rest of time.
Meanwhile, I’m just going to wait for the female ‘Ghostbusters’ to come out, and hope for the best!