SDCC and gender: Bechdel Testing Comic-Con


I seem to remember seeing a website out in the wild that does the test on movies. And,

“You can have a feminist movie that doesn’t meet the criteria,” she says. “And you can have a movie that meets the criteria and isn’t feminist. So, it’s not scientific or anything. It was meant as a joke, but I still think it’s a very useful joke…. It’s a bit surprising what does and doesn’t pass.”

It’s pretty evident early on that its usefulness has limitations. The Iron Man movies pass the test. I wonder if Jack McDevitt’s books about Priscilla Hutchins pass.

Please don’t pile on me for that; I’m just reaffirming that, hey, it’s a joke; it might be a thought-provoking one, but it’s a joke. We should be talking about what would make a better test, not blasting people for pointing out that it’s not a perfect test.

While we’re at it, can we talk about how it fails so often because secondary characters are talking about the protagonist? And instead of arguing about whether that’s true, can we discuss why that’s true? Wouldn’t it be more productive to discuss why on earth protagonists tend to be overwhelimingly male? has both a list, and more than one type of identification for movies. They’re also organized by year.

Total Film posted a list of “50 Greatest Films” that passed.

Finally, FiveThirtyEight took a look at 1,615 films, and found that films which passed the Bechdel Test fared better at the box office. (Sweet!)

It’s not particularly useful at telling you whether an individual film or comic is good, or even necessarily if it’s feminist. But as an aggregate tool it tells us a lot about the role of women in films and comics, especially when you consider how hard it is to find media that would fail a reverse Bechdel test.

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For some reason I just watched this atrocity:

I could be wrong, but I think it fails the reverse Blechdel.

And before anyone asks: yes, it was as stupid as it sounded. I was home alone, bored, and for some bizarre reason came up on a search for something else. It sounds like it’d be more like Meatballs but ends up being more like Pretty Woman for dudebros. Oh, and Timothy Oliphant as a porn producer…hm.

I’ll take your word for it.

Blechdel? What are you, a writer for MAD magazine?

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Yes. Yes, I am.


Somehow I found it more disappointing than average that the new planet of the aped flick failed as well.

Did it at least pass the “Bonobo” test, or did all the apes’ conversations center around the human protagonists?

If you followed the Bechdel test to the letter as your universal standard for feminism in movies, you’d probably spend most of the time watching porn.

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“I have always felt ambivalent about how the Test got attached to my name and went viral.” – Alison Bechdel

Well, it passed that test, but not the Bonobo Bonobo test–the “Cain” of the apes is a bonobo who starts most of the bad ape stuff. This is explained by his prior mistreatment as a lab animal, but I think it’s more a case of type-casting by looks. Bonobos just look more like movie heavies. And let’s not get into how all the chimps have been redesigned…

I believe the universal standard for “I can’t believe it’s Bechdel” is G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

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I was hoping this test would involve going around Comic-Con to see if there were at least two female attendees who weren’t sexy window dressing and were talking with each other.

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Me too! :wink:

Let’s get this out of the way:

If attendees want to show up looking like their favorite character, and their favorite character looks like “sexy window dressing”, that’s their own damn business.


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