In 1985, American cartoonist, Alison Bechdel, published a segment for her long running comic strip entitled “The Rule”. “The Rule” focuses on two women contemplating whether or not they should see a movie. The one woman expresses her concern saying, “Well,… I dunno. I have this rule, see, I only go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements. One, it has to have at least two women in it who, two, talk to each other about, three, something besides a man.” Before long, this idea became known as the Bechdel test. It is a set of three simple questions that can be asked by critics and moviegoers alike to evaluate the representation of women within the film. The three questions are as follows:
- Does the movie have at least two named women in it?
- Do these women speak to each other?
- Do they speak to each other about something other than a man?
Though the criteria to pass the Bechdel test seems ridiculously simple, many movies, including new releases, fail to pass it. While it may appear to an outsider of the film industry that filmmakers would have to make a conscious effort to fail the test, it is understandable that filmmakers may not strive to or attempt to pass the test because of the fact that we live in a society where institutionalized sexism is rewarded.
Out of the ten highest grossing movies of 2016, according to The Numbers, five do not pass the Bechdel test. These films include, The Secret Life of Pets, The Jungle Book, Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Doctor Strange.
Maybe more of us should be more like the women in the comic, who only supported films that feature strong female characters, because supporting films that don’t pass the test is basically like telling Hollywood that you want to see more movies with weak women.
“…When you guys voted for this, you didn’t just vote for this, you didn’t just vote for this movie or me, you voted for girl power,” she said. “And so thank you. Thank you for [applause]- it’s true! And men voted for girl power too, and you guys are awesome for doing that. So thank you for sending a message to Hollywood that people want to hear stories about women and we want to hear your stories- whether it’s social media, your iPhone, whatever- tell your stories now more than ever. You need to be heard, you are valuable and no one can limit you.”
The only way we can change the system of Hollywood is to take it upon ourselves to support films made by, and about, strong women. Hopefully, more and more men and women will follow Lively’s advice and before long, all best selling movies will pass the Bechdel.
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