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 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?
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.
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.