The Bechdel Test and Indie Film: A User Guide

Wendy and Lucy Passes the Bechdel Test

WENDY AND LUCY passes the Bechdel Test

Why are we asking viewers to apply the Bechdel Test to our library? It’s about the big picture. 

The Bechdel Test is a deceptively simple means of analyzing gender in film, named for comic artist Alison Bechdel, who invented a “rule” for her characters when deciding which films to watch:

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is almost thirty years old, but recent discussion around the gender gap in film has reignited dialogue about its principles. In March, Fandor CEO Ted Hope challenged filmmakers to keep the Bechdel Test at the forefront of their process. And now, when you are on a Fandor film page, you’ll notice a pop-up quiz asking you to rate the film on whether or not it passes. If it does, it will receive special designation on the site. But why?

SINCE OTAR LEFT passes the Bechdel Test

SINCE OTAR LEFT passes the Bechdel Test

When applied to individual films, this test can seem extremely reductive—after all, many fantastic films will not pass, and many films that do pass (like a certain sparkly vampire franchise which shall not be named) aren’t exactly lauded for their depiction of women. However, when applied holistically to a group of films, like Oscar winners, or even the films made in a certain year, the data can be used to show what kind of media is being produced and promoted, and for who. In fact, a more apt term for the test might be the Bechdel Lens.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST passes the Bechdel Test

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST passes the Bechdel Test

In the original Bechdel comic, the characters choose to forgo that trip to the movies because none of the films that are playing appeal to what they are looking for or what speaks to them. Independent film exists and is essential for this exact reason—because the paradigms of the mainstream film industry don’t reflect the depth and wealth of stories that can and should be told. It is in that spirit, the spirit of keeping film a democratic, dynamic and moving medium, that we are asking viewers for their assistance. Watch films. Rate them. Let’s see the pattern that emerges. Let’s watch films that appreciate, not just the depth of human experience, but the breadth of human relationships. Popcorn optional.

Note: For a different (and dare we say, even more strict) lens for film analysis, see the newly emerged Mako Mori Test.


4 thoughts on “The Bechdel Test and Indie Film: A User Guide

  1. Pingback: A Feminist Way to Search for Films | Bitch Flicks

  2. After reading this article it appears that you still can’t see why the Bechtel test is not good. This “test” will not “pass” movies that are aimed at women or with women in it.

    • Actually, the article pretty wells lays out the problematics AND benefits of the Bechdel Test, and why it is important! Also, this begs the question: who makes these movies “aimed” at women? Who decides what women want? WHY would films “aimed” at women, with women IN them, NOT pass the test, and why?

  3. Pingback: If You Could Go Back and Fix It | Library Junkie Writes

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