2017 Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test

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Having seen many of the movies likely to be nominated for an Oscar, I can say that a particularly discouraging trend is how few of them would pass the so-called Bechdel Test. For those not aware, the test has three criteria:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

A few weeks ago, I saw a screening of “I, Tonya” and, besides great Margot Robbie and Allison Janney performances, one thing that struck me is how easily it passes the Bechdel Test. Tonya and her mother speak about many things (especially Tonya’s figure skating career). How disappointing, then, that so many of the movies I’ve seen recently fail this test. Here are just some examples off the top of my head:

  1. “The Post” – Meryl Streep does have two scenes with her daughter (played by blog favorite Alison Brie) in which they discuss personal troubles. The scenes last a total of about 90 seconds, but this is actually pretty close to a pass.
  2. “Downsizing” – Hong Chau (who is wonderful in the movie) only speaks to men, as does Kristen Wiig, the only other notable female character.
  3. “The Last Jedi” – Rey only speaks to Leia at the end (about Luke), Leia speaks to Holdo (but only about Poe), and Rose only speaks to Poe and Finn.
  4. “Call Me By Your Name” – Elio’s mother only speaks to Elio and his father, or to other female characters about food preparation.
  5. “The Disaster Artist” – literally everyone speaks either to or about Tommy.
  6. “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Frances McDormand’s character does not interact with other women except her ex-husband’s girlfriend (and they only speak about her ex).

Now, not every movie fails – “Lady Bird,” which I just saw today, has some great scenes between female characters (though boys/men often are topics of discussion). But in a world in which Hollywood has been exposed as a place of rampant sexism, misogyny, and harassment, I hope that more movies will be made that emphasize many great, strong, female roles.

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