The Bechdel Test is a standard for evaluating whether or not a story features meaningful interactions between two women without focusing on a male character. Alison Bechdel wrote it in 1985, and it’s been used ever since as a test for the representation of women in film. This article will explain the background of the test, why it’s more important than ever, and provide examples of Hollywood films that do well on the test.
At A Glance
- Bechdel Test: Definition, Criteria, and History
- How does the Bechdel Test work?
- What are the flaws of the Bechdel Test?
- Criticism of the Bechdel Test
- Financial effects of the Bechdel Test
Bechdel Test: Definition, Criteria, and History
In her 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, American cartoonist Alison Bechdel popularised the test, hence the name. Bechdel said she got the concept from Virginia Woolf and her friend Liz Wallace. As the test gained more attention in the 2000s, many offshoots and variations appeared.
The Bechdel Test results do not necessarily reflect the degree to which women are represented. Instead, the exam is meant to highlight the gender imbalance in fiction and indicate women’s participation across the broader cinema and fiction industry. Recent analyses of the media market show that movies that succeed on this front tend to do better at the box office than their counterparts that fail.
Critics have amended the Bechdel Test to state that the female leads should be introduced, have meaningful conversations lasting more than five words, and appear onscreen together for at least one minute. However, the three initial guidelines are still frequently used as a litmus test for representation of gender.
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