MOVIES

What Is The Bechdel Test & Does It Really Expose A Huge Hollywood Failure?

So what are a handful of films that do — and don’t — pass the Bechdel test? Movies that do include “Frozen” — because sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) talk extensively about their own relationship and their kingdom — and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” thanks to Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) stewardship of five escaped wives of the film’s antagonist Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Both installments of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” pass, because the many women in those films mostly just talk about murder and revenge. “Hidden Figures,” which tells the real-life story of Black female mathematicians at NASA, also passes handily.

The movies that don’t — which include all three of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films, 2012’s “The Avengers,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Gravity,” and “Arrival” are just a few of them — aren’t totally surprising, but still, it’s a little bit of an unfair metric as far as a few of those are concerned. In the last three films, the protagonists are women, but there aren’t a ton of other women in the movie for them to talk to, and “Lord of the Rings” and “The Avengers” feature powerful female characters who don’t interact. Suffice to say, a movie failing the Bechdel test doesn’t automatically mean it’s “not feminist.”

The idea behind the test, though, points to very real inequities in Hollywood. In the spring of 2024, Oscar winner Olivia Colman pointed out that the pay gap between men and women is still alive and well. Only three women in the history of the Oscars have ever won Best Director. The list goes on, frankly. Still, is the Bechdel test the best way to measure if a movie is progressive and inclusive?

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