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.



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. :)

“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. 

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. 

Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques –literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.
—  Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)

It occurred to me, after reading this excellent post on women in fiction and the Bechdel Test, that perhaps you could construct one to address issues of POC and race. The analog seemed obvious, so I just wrote it out.

1. It has to have two POC in it.
2. Who talk to each other.
3. About something other than a white person.

Now, you see the obvious issue there, right? Yeah, it has to do with number one. Even in stories that feature prominent POC characters, it is so rare to find more than one present, let alone who know each other well enough to talk to each other…

Since coming out as a lesbian in 1980 at the age of 19, graphic novelist Alison Bechdel has made it a point to be open about her sexuality. It was a decision she made consciously as a reaction to her father, who was gay and closeted, and who died four months after Bechdel came out.

“In many ways my life, my professional career has been a reaction to my father’s life, his life of secrecy,” Bechdel tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I threw myself into the gay community, into this life as a lesbian cartoonist, deciding I was going to be a professional lesbian. In a way, that was all my way of healing myself.”

In 2006, Bechdel’s “healing” took the form of a graphic novel called Fun Home, in which she details her own coming out and grapples with her father’s death, which she suspects may have been a suicide. Fun Home has since been turned into a Broadway play, which recently won five Tony Awards, including the award for best musical. Lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori join Bechdel in a conversation about the play.

Lesbian Cartoonist Alison Bechdel Countered Dad’s Secrecy By Being Out And Open

On “the Bechdel test” of female characters in movies and on TV

Alison Bechdel: I feel a little bit sheepish about the whole thing because it’s not like I invented this test or said, “This is the Bechdel Test.” It somehow has gotten attributed to me over the years. Many, many years ago — back in 1985 — I wrote an episode of my comic strip where two women are talking to each other. They want to go see a movie and one woman says, “I’ll only go to a movie if it satisfies three criteria.”

I have to confess, I stole this whole thing from a friend of mine at the time because I didn’t have an idea for my strip. My friend Liz Wallace … said, “I’ll only see a movie if it has at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man.” That left very, very few movies in 1985. The only movie my friend could go see was Alien, because the two women talk to each other about the monster. But somehow young feminist film students found this old cartoon and resurrected it in the Internet era and now it’s this weird thing. People actually use it to analyze films to see whether or not they pass that test. Still … surprisingly few films actually pass it.

Photo: Alison Bechdel by Elena Seibert/Courtesy of O+M Co.