As Claudia and Miranda slip into conversation, I felt it was a good time to revisit The Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is named for the cartoonist, Alison Bechdel, who first introduced the idea in one of her strips. Bechdel herself prefers the name Bechdel-Wallace Test, which credits the woman, Liz Wallace, who helped develop the idea. In the original strip, which you can read here, two women are discussing whether they should see a movie. One of them outlines the rules she uses for choosing a film;
1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. who talk to each other
3. about something other than a man.
This was thirty-two years ago and, as I understand it, the rules have been tweaked only slightly; the two women should be known to the audience, at least by name.
The Bechdel-Wallace test can be performed on any work of fiction, in order to find out something of the way it portrays female characters. A large amount of fiction, including about a half of all films, fails the test. bechdeltest.com offers a useful list.
Deadpool fails, but Wonder Woman passes. Zootopia passes, but Kung Fu Panda 3 and Monsters Inc. do not. Fightclub, Train Spotting, Forrest Gump, Groundhog Day, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me and Raiders of the Lost Ark all fail. The Life of Brian, Inglourious Bastards, Amelie, No Country for Old Men, The Dark Knight, Sin City, The Incredibles and V for Vendetta all pass. So do Pulp Fiction and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
As I said in September last year, it is no great achievement to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, but it’s problematic that so much of our fiction does not. I’d like to think that Legonium would have passed even if I’d never heard of the test, but I am glad that I had heard of it, and that it is in my mind as I write these stories.
While this small band walks quickly along the street, Miranda and Claudia speak together. ‘I am glad that you have returned home,’ Miranda says to Claudia.