Alison Bechdel once had a character in her comic strip explain what she looked for in a movie. There had to be two named female characters and they had to talk about something other than men. It was a joke, but it has come to be known as the Bechdel test. And while some people point out that a movie like “Gravity” can have a strong, independent, female lead (indeed one who is alone on screen for most of the movie) and still fail the test, it is still a good reminder that many movies fail to include female characters with anything to do but sigh and say things like, “Johnny, when are you ever going to grow up and learn to commit?” (I’m talking to you, Seth Rogan and Seth MacFarlane.)
There’s a website that rates movies according to the Bechdel test. Four Swedish theaters have now made the Bechdel test an official movie rating. No one, and certainly not Bechdel, intended the test to be definitive. But, just consider, as Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris did, what it would be like applied to male characters.
If the Bechdel Test had suddenly landed in Hollywood with the force of law, it would have seriously jeopardized five of last year’s 10 Best Picture nominees. If we’d rewritten the rule to apply to men, it would have seriously jeopardized… um… let’s see… “Precious.” And that inequity only covers good movies. Apply the comparison to a roster of summer blockbusters, and the results are even less attractive. Not to mention Comic-Con, which now represents the ruling aesthetic of mainstream Hollywood movies and which, under the Bechdel Test, probably could have been knocked down from five days to 45 minutes and not strained the seating capacity of a local Olive Garden.