Feminists listen up, there’s a brand new film festival in town promoting great movies that present women in a “positive and progressive” light.
Bechdel Test Fest has been set up to celebrate 30 years of Alison Bechdel’s comic strip “rule” that measures the fair (or otherwise) representation of women on the big screen.
For a film to pass the Bechdel Test it must tick these three boxes:
1) It must feature a minimum of two female characters
2) Both of these characters must be named
3) They must share at least one conversation about something other than a man
This might not sound like much of a task but, according to the festival, just 15 per cent of the top 100 films released in 2013 had a lead female character and by June last year, less than half of mainstream movies passed the test.
Of course, movies can pass the Bechdel Test and still be sexist, but it is arguably a good indicator of female presence in cinema.
Bechdel Test Pass/Fails
Bechdel Test Pass/Fails
1/10 PASS: Frozen
It features two central female characters, Anna and Elsa, discussing the isolationist policies of Arendelle, plans to build a snowman, and the time Elsa locked their civilization in an eternal winter
2/10 FAIL: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Contains fewer than two named women so fails the test on first criterion.
3/10 PASS: August: Osage County
Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts head strong female cast in family saga featuring multiple conversations about the character’s relationships, which do not centre on a man
4/10 FAIL: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Kenneth Brannagh's blockbuster includes two named women (Katya, a Russian assistant, Kathy, the protagonist’s fiancée) but they do not speak to each other throughout the entire film
5/10 PASS: American Hustle
American Hustle passes but only due to a single scene where a con artist’s wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, discusses nail polish with a politician’s wife, played by Elisabeth Röhm
6/10 FAIL: The Hangover Part 3
The wives of Doug and Stu are both named and do have a conversation but it’s about Alan, Zach Galifianakis’ character
7/10 FAIL: Noah
Russell Crowe Biblical epic scrapes in due to scene where Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connolly talks to adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) about her pregnancy
8/10 PASS: Blue Jasmine
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and Ginger (Sally Hawkins) have multiple conversations about something other than a man, mostly about Jasmine herself
9/10 FAIL: Gravity
Gravity fails, despite delivering a strong female role for Sandra Bullock, since its isolated outer space setting limits her opportunities for female bonding
10/10 FAIL: The Avengers
The Avengers fails because none of its female characters talk to each other at any point
Bechdel Test Fest will run for a year and feature the films that “pass the test with flying colours”. There will screenings throughout 2015 and a main event in September on Bechdel’s birthday complete with debates, panel sessions and shorts from upcoming filmmakers.
The first event will be “Reclaim the Rom-Com” on Sunday 8 February. Rom-com experts will be on hand to discuss “the problems and solutions to female roles in romantic comedies” and there will be screenings of Obvious Child and The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn.
Then there will be “Little Women, Big Stories” focusing on young female leads in empowering roles in March and “Horror Harem” for Halloween about inspiring women in the horror genre.
Film fans are invited to submit shorts less than 15 minutes in length for the festival, so long as they meet the test’s requirements of course.
Wondering which of your favourite films pass or fail the Bechdel Test? Check out the online movie list.Reuse content