The Bechdel Test

I convinced 6 middle aged women that professed to hate action movies to go see Mad Max: Fury Road. You know how I did it? I said “The main character is a woman and she’s not sexualized at all.” And that was it. I had a whole speech prepared and I said one sentence before they all agreed to go see it. And they LOVED it. One woman saw it twice so she could bring her teenaged daughter.

All these years, all this industry moaning about how women don’t like action movies, and all it fucking took to change their minds was “The main character is a woman and she’s not sexualized.”


When it comes to children’s animation creating multimillion dollar franchises in worlds of infinite imagination, surely gender equality should be a cert? Discuss.


The Incredibles, Brave, Toy Story 3, A Bug’s Life


Up, WALL-E, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Monsters University, Toy Story and Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2.

The Bechdel test is actually the craziest shit because at first you’re all like “two female characters discussing something other than men, alright, easy peasy, what a low fucking bar” and then you start to pay attention and you realize that like 80% of the films you watch don’t pass this simple test and it’s just

what the everloving fuck is wrong with our society
The Mako Mori Test: 'Pacific Rim' inspires a Bechdel Test alternative

The Bechdel Test has long been the barometer of women-friendly films, but Pacific Rim fans say it doesn’t give the movie’s female lead enough credit.

It’s no secret that Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s $200 million love song to Japanese pop culture, was a risky venture from the start. With a multicultural cast, Hong Kong used as the main setting instead of New York or L.A., the only real star being a Black Brit many Americans had never heard of, and a storyline full of borrowed tropes that many anime fans felt were ripoffs rather than homages, the sci-fi action flick has fought an uphill battle to draw attention. 

But despite what seems to be an infatuated, deeply loyal fanbase—last weekend saw an entire online fan convention, JaegerCon, complete with an appearance from del Toro himself—Pacific Rim has encountered trouble from an unexpected source: the Bechdel Test. ….

In the process of running down numerous arguments for why the Bechdel Test can’t and shouldn’t be the only measurement by which feminist films are judged, Tumblr user chaila has proposed the Mako Mori Test, “to live alongside the Bechdel Test”:

The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.


12 women are on screen, all with speaking roles, and none of them are talking about a man. It not only outpaces mediocre measurements like the Bechdel Test—which the vast majority of Hollywood films never attempt to pass—it reminds you how feeble they were as yardsticks to begin with.

Mad Max: Fury Road is everything you’ve heard and so much more

Just as important is Hardy’s choice to play Max as a subtle, quietly feminist hero. Max never objectifies the women he’s with, or views them as props for his own agenda. He helps when he’s asked to help, and when he finally speaks for any length of time, it’s not to take charge of a group that’s floundering without his help—it’s to make a suggestion, stand back, and then let the group decide.

This view of what equality actually looks like in a film is rare enough; but it’s even rarer to see it in this kind of genre material. Fury Road is every inch the high-testosterone, manly action movie of your dreams. And even when they show weakness, its female characters are still fully in charge of their own destinies. [Read More]


After many delays, my graduation film. It’s about two best friends who explore a city floating in the air, where an unexpected discovery puts their friendship to the test. If you liked, comment, like, reblog, whatever, it would be highly appreciated. :)

the Bechdel test, the Ellen Willis test, ALL THE TESTS: or, a handy guide to feminist critiques of narrative

(reference for when i am trying to explain these to people and they are looking at me like “huh”):

  • the Bechdel test: does the story have a) more than one women, b) who talk to each other, c) about something other than a man.
  • the Ellen Willis test: if you flip the genders, does the story still make sense?
  • the Sexy Lamp test (courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick): can you replace your female character with a sexy lamp and still have the story work? if yes, YOU ARE A HACK.
  • the Mako Mori test: there is a) at least one female character, b) who gets her own narrative arc, c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.
  • the Tauriel test (which i made up in response to The Hobbit 2 [which passes] and Skyfall [which fails]): a) there is a woman, b) WHO IS GOOD AT HER JOB.

and in justification of my recent TV obsessions, i would like to note that Scandal, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy, and Nikita (ALL HAIL MAGGIE Q) pass all of these tests with flying colors.

UPDATE: i just discovered the Finkbeiner test and it is FANTASTIC.

FURTHER UPDATE: these were noted by oranges8hands and are EXCELLENT and add some much-needed intersectionality:

The Deggans Rule: a) At least two POC characters in the main cast, b) in a show that’s not about race.

The Racial Bechdel Test (I first saw it laid out by Alaya Dawn Johnson): a) it has two POC in it, b) who talk to each other, c) about something other than a white person

and then I offered an amendment to the Bechdel test: d) both women have to be alive at the end

FURTHER FURTHER update, from coelasquid (via oranges8hands)

“Women in tupperware” It’s like Women in refrigerators except instead of killing the lady and stuffing her in a fridge they incapacitate her during high stakes plot point and seal her away to preserve her freshness.

See: Every pivotal scene in Tom Cruise’s Oblivion movie.

new addition from boob-tube-reviews:

Russo test for LGBTQ+ characters:

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. (i.e. they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another.)
  3. The LGBTQ+ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

“Passing the Bechdel Test”

Songs that  1. Include at least one female vocalist 2. Who sings to another woman (or implied female audience) 3. About something besides a man

Girl on Fire - Alicia Keys feat. Nicki Minaj // Pop Goes the World - Gossip // Electric Lady - Janelle Monae // I Was an Island - Alicia Weiss // I Wanna Dance With Somebody - Glee Cover // Let Me Blow Ya Mind - Eve feat. Gwen Stefani // Rosie - Daisy Dares You // Me Against the Music - Britney Spears feat. Madonna // Take Me or Leave Me - Rent // You’re the Reason - Victoria Justice // Trouble - Neon Jungle // I Know, I Know, I Know - Tegan and Sara // Raise Your Glass - P!nk // Baddy Girl - M.I.A. // Women’s Suffrage (Bad Romance Parody) - Soomo Publishing // Hollywood - Marina and the Diamonds // Rebel Girl - Bikini Kill // Crazy - Au Reservoir Simone // For Good - Wicked // October Song - Amy Winehouse // Girlfriend - Icona Pop // Q.U.E.E.N. - Janelle Monae // Smile - Vitamin C // Fireball - Willow Smith feat. Nicki Minaj // When’s She Coming Home - The Ditty Bops

Total time = 1 hour 31 minutes

Click here to visit 8tracks and hear the mix. 

It’s not just that Gilmore Girls unfailingly left the Bechdel Test crying in the dust each and every episode. It’s that Gilmore Girls is an early successful example of everything Hollywood’s Exclusion Myth tells us isn’t supposed to be possible: a narrative built around women and women’s plots, relationships, and conflicts—one that successfully engages a wide demographic and doesn’t have the “excuse” of being a blockbuster action-adventure serving as an exception to a widely held rule.
Pacific Rim and the Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is, as most of you know, a litmus test of sorts used by many movie and media analysts to determine how feminist a movie is.

There is a slight problem with this, as the only thing that the Bechdel Test measures is female presence and importance in a plot.  It works so well in most cases because deeply embedded misogyny in Hollywood and the movie industry make it difficult for any movie to pass what is, in actuality, a very simple test.

  1. Is there more than one named female character
  2. Do these named female characters talk to each other
  3. Is there conversation about something other than a man

The test specifically measures only female plot presence, and passing it does not necessarily mean that the movie is particularly feminist.  Skyfall passed it, for crying out loud.

Now, Guillermo del Toro’s movie, Pacific Rim, did not pass.  It has two named female characters (Mako Mori and Alexis/Sasha Kaidanovsky), but they never interact with each other onscreen.  That is disappointing, but not necessarily heartbreaking, and I’m about to tell you why.

Guillermo del Toro specifically designed Mako Mori’s character to break a lot of the tropes associated with female characters in movies, and in scifi especially.

One of the other things I decided was that I wanted a female lead […] who has the equal force as the male leads. She’s not going to be a sex kitten, she’s not going to come out in cutoff shorts and a tank top, and it’s going to be a real earnestly drawn character. One of the decisions we made as we went along in the process of the movie was, let’s not have a love story. Let’s have a story about two people.

A woman in scifi who wasn’t the main dude’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl?  A woman in scifi who wore an actually military uniform rather than a porn studio’s attempt at a uniform?  A woman in scifi whose character was designed to be equally important to the plot as all the dudebros?

What planet are we on?  Because I’m pretty sure this can’t be earth.

Mako Mori also gets way more backstory than any of the other characters, including the narrator, Raleigh Becket.  We don’t know any of the other pilot’s reasons for becoming Jaeger pilots or for joining Pacific Rim (we know Mako’s), we don’t get to see the exact moment where other characters decide to join the plot (we see Mako’s).

We see Mako Mori answering the Call to Adventure, we see her crossing thresholds into the unknown, we see her with her mentor, we see her struggle, we see her initial victories, we see her watch her mentor die, and we see her return when her journey is complete.  Raleigh may be the narrator, but Mako is the real hero of the story.

Mako also gets a lot of moments that would normally only be given to the male lead.  She’s the plucky rookie trying to prove herself and she is the one saying “My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die."  She’s in charge of restoring a huge-ass mecha, so on top of being a BAMF, she’s also probably a damn good engineer.

Also, you know how a lot of scifi and fantasy, things can get really male gaze-y?  They sexualize violence against women, we see tons of panty shots, and the ladies are all either walking around in catsuits or body armor that looks more like a bikini than anything functional? 

Not in Pacific Rim.  In fact, the only gazing we get is Mako Mori’s female gaze, when she spots Raleigh walking around shirtless, slams the door to her quarters, and immediately continues watching him through the peep-hole in her door.

What, women are sexual beings capable of appreciating a hot bod but still able to act professionally around people they’re attracted to?  Duuuuuuuuuuuuude no way.

Mako is never reduced to the Chick or the Girlfriend, even though it would have been incredibly easy to do so.  The production crew restrained themselves, and the movie is much better for it.

There are a few other reasons Pacific Rim is definitely something you should go see:

  1. The movie passes the race version of the Bechdel Test amazingly well (Mako Mori, Stacker Pentecost, and Tendo Choi are all really incredibly awesome characters)
  2. The plot may be easy to follow, but it’s still incredibly fun and doesn’t fall into a lot of traps like many other scifi movies
  3. It’s also a really funny movie
  5. The movie is visually very beautiful, and the special effects are awesome

So, while the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, it still has a lot going for it, and is definitely worth your time.  Just go in with an open mind and be prepared to pay attention because even though it’s a giant robot movie, del Toro can get pretty subtle.

The test about women in media is called “the Bechdel Test”. Alison Bechdel, who created the idea, writes comic books (or graphic novels or whatever) herself, and here is my advice to you. Go and find her graphic novel Fun Home. It is mind-blowing and will change everything you thought you knew about comics. She does a bunch of other comics work too, but hot DAMN Fun Home is good. If you like James Joyce or literature or autobiographical writing, go and read it. If you like none of those things, go and read it anyway. It’s a seriously powerful piece of work.