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Now in Theaters: The Bechdel Test

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Bechdel Test Movie listings in America generally include the start time, rating, and sometimes the names of the stars and director. A cinema in Sweden has all that, while also answering the question of whether not the film in question passes the Bechdel Test.

The what test?

The Bechdel Test was created in the 1980s by feminist cartoonist Alison Bechdel, which applies a three-part test to all movies: 1) Does this movie contain at least two women, with names? 2) Do the two women talk to each other, and 3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

An art house cinema chain in Stockholm, Sweden is scoring movies that it shows based on whether or not they pass the Bechdel Test. According to the Guardian, one TV channel in that country is going to apply the standard to the movies it broadcasts.

I’ve been aware of the Bechdel Test for awhile and it’s surprising just how many movies, even great ones, don’t pass the Bechdel test. Just this fall, “Inside Llewyn Davis” does not. “12 Years a Slave” does not. “Captain Phillips” does not. “Gravity” and “All is Lost” don’t either, although that’s more a function of the former having just two characters and the latter only one.

No, the Bechdel Test is not the be-all-and-end-all of film evaluation. Great movies can fail it and terrible movies can pass it. A Bechdel-failing score does not mean the director is a misogynist or that the movie itself is sexist. I would not advocate for non-Bechdel-passing movies to be banned, shunned or boycotted, nor I imagine would Alison Bechdel herself.

But the test represents a useful tool in showing just how male-centric movies are, especially Hollywood ones, and I’m glad to see it getting some attention outside of feminist and/or hardcore film theorist circles. Even beyond that, try imagining a reverse Bechdel Test, in which a movie has two men, who talk to each other, about something other than a woman- can you even think of a movie that doesn’t pass that? I’m guessing the only movie this year that wouldn’t is “Blue is the Warmest Color”- which is French, and about a love affair between two women.

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