The Bechdel Test for movies

If you aren’t already familiar:

Inspired by David K. in the comments: What is your favorite movie that passes the Bechdel test?

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8 Responses to The Bechdel Test for movies

  1. David K says:

    The Classic example of a Bechdel film: ‘Alien’ – two women talk to each other about the monster.
    Something that’s important to think about with particular reference to the recent outpouring of contempt for the Sex and the City 2 picture… how many big budget films are going to be released this year with a majority of female leads? Maybe a couple of others – if that? I’m divided on whether that’s really an excuse for SATC2, or if it makes it even worse: with such low quantity, surely we have a right to expect better quality?

    • April says:

      I haven’t seen either Sex and the City movie, but I was a fan of the show. From the reviews I read about SATC2, I’m not sure I’d approve too strongly. While I appreciate that the movie centers around women, like you mentioned, I expect a higher quality output by now. It’s frustrating to know that Hollywood still thinks that in order for women to be watchable in a movie, we have to be engaging in primarily stereotypical behavior. Sure, they have sex and talk about it, but that was a big deal when the show came out. It’s over a decade later, and we’ve moved past that. I want to see something like I Heart Huckabees, or Fight Club, with a female lead. I want something more daring!

      I’ll probably Netflix the movies soon though, so I can at least feel justified in my opinions.

    • David K says:

      Something else: Mark Kermode, the BBC film critic (and probably the most “feminist” of all the UK’s major name film critics) was called out on his radio show a couple weeks back about attacking SATC2 when it’s the only “women-centred” film out atm, and he accepted the point. He also mentioned the pre-Hays code melodramas as the last great era of Hollywood making pics about women – that’s pre-War! that’s practically pre-FDR!

      What would you pick as a great Bechdel-positive film?
      I’d start my list with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and then I’d have to go and have a think…. that’s kinda pathetic isn’t it?

    • April says:

      You know, I’ll be honest– I’d much rather a critic slam SATC2 for how silly and stereotypical it was than praise it for any other, less-true, reason. Although I can see the potential backlash, I feel that pretending that it was actually a good movie that women should feel proud of is not only disingenuous, but also insulting and patronizing.

      Then again, I haven’t seen it, so I should really just do that before I go around calling it insulting.

      Ooh, what would I pick? I just spent a depressing amount of time in front of the shelf o’ DVDs, pulled out my favorites (about 6 or 8), and found: Personal Velocity, and I think, looking back, I can remember a scene toward the end of I Heart Huckabees where the lead actress talks to a female character about existentialist theory for like, 2 seconds.

      I’ve never heard of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Perhaps I should soon.

  2. ballgame says:

    I tend to enjoy movies about women because women, as a general rule, are allowed to be more authentically human than men, which I think makes for more emotionally engaging stories. Some of my all-time favorite movies are all Bechdel-positive:

    Plenty remains my favorite movie, but in talking with some others who’ve seen it, your reaction will greatly depend on how you feel about the main character (played by Meryl Streep in what I think is her best performance). The character she plays is complicated and not at all ‘warm and fuzzy.’ Some people I’ve talked to found the movie very moving, while some others hated it because they really disliked the main character. It’s not an easy movie to ‘get into,’ although you might appreciate the fact that some of its subplots are pretty clearly feminist.

    Housekeeping is another one of my favorites. It won some awards but sadly has fallen into obscurity and I don’t think it ever made the leap to DVD.

    I just recently stumbled on Marion Bridge, a Canadian film which Americans can watch for free on Hulu.

    The Hours is pretty good. (Screenplay by the same person who did Plenty, interestingly enough.) And Kissing Jessica Stein is funny, touching, and ribald in about equal measure.

    • April says:

      I haven’t heard of the first two movies you cited, but I’ll look into them. I still want to see the Hours– I’m horrible at movie-watching and tend to fall asleep before they’re halfway done, and that’s what I did with The Hours.

      But Kissing Jessica Stein, though, I’m so happy you mentioned it! I was thinking of that movie to today when thinking about this post. I randomly saw it in the theaters way back when and thought it was awesome. Not many people have seen that movie, so that makes me happy 🙂

    • David K says:

      watched Kissing Jessica Stein last night; it was good, but Jez: Only In New York! 😉

      Another one to recommend:
      I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_a_Cyborg,_But_That%27s_OK

      which is also a romantic comedy, but less funny, and a tougher watch, but ultimately I found it more rewarding.

  3. femspotter says:

    Sex and the City 2 is an abomination. It’s a racist, ignorant train wreck. (I like the show and I like the first movie, for the record.)

    A good female-centered movie that does pass this test and is out at the moment is Winter’s Bone.

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