Most people nowadays have at least heard of the Bechdel Test. If you haven’t, here’s a primer: According to this website, the Bechdel test is a simple way of analyzing film, television, or literature using the following three criteria:
(1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.
The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject please check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies onfeministfrequency.com.
The aforementioned website includes a list of several movies that pass the test—for example, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Ghostbusters. Some books that past the test include The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, and The Fault in Our Stars. As for television shows, think Orphan Black, Scandal, and Parks and Recreation. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the way women are represented in the media. The commercial and popular success of the Ghostbusters reboot, as well as that of female-led movies like the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road, proves that people want to see women in more prominent roles. For decades, women have been shoehorned into one-dimensional, stereotypical roles that reinforce outdated perspectives and encourage sexism and misogyny. The Bechdel Test is arguably more relevant than ever.
But we should strive to write beyond the Bechdel Test. Instead of settling for the bare minimum—writing novels that meet these three criteria—we should work to surpass them. This means not only writing female characters that have conversations about subjects other than men, but writing female characters who are real, have hopes and dreams and goals and weaknesses and flaws; women with hobbies and careers and relationships and souls.
It’s not enough to write to appease the Bechdel Test. We have to move forward, rise above, do better. More than anything, we have to go beyond the Bechdel Test. We owe it to not only future generations, but also to ourselves. That’s what keeps me writing. How about you?
I am a massive Ghostbusters fan, and I have been for quite some time now. When news of the Paul-Feig-directed reboot came up in the world, I had fixed feelings about it. However, when I heard that the reboot would include a star-studded cast of powerful ladies, I got a little more excited. I was optimistic, if not cautiously so.
You see, for the longest time—and I’m sure you’ve noticed this—women haven’t exactly had the most coveted roles in film and television. Maybe you’ve heard of the Sexy Lamp Test. Basically, what this “test” does is ascertain the strength and depth of the female characters in any given medium. If the character can be replaced by a sexy lamp with no real issues or effects on the plot, then the female character is considerably lacking in depth. Any women who do have some kind of depth are usually relegated to familiar, comfortable roles, such as the shopaholic, the ditz, the slut, the nerd, and the sexy sidekick.
Ghostbusters changes all of that. In the female-led, character-driven reboot, Feig puts Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in positions of respect. Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon all play intelligent, capable scientists, while Jones’s character puts in hours as a long-suffering MTA employee who works hard to do her job no matter what—even if that means confronting some ghosts. These characters are not only women I could see walking down the street day after day but also most definitely worth looking up to. I kept thinking, I want to be her when I grow up, even though I’m already (technically) grown-up.
Another thing I love about the film is its depiction of female friendship. Throughout the movie, the Ghostbusters develop a close, familial bond built on trust and mutual admiration. There are no love triangles, no catfights, no betrayals or name-calling. Instead, the woman cheer each other on, utilize each other’s strengths to work together as a team, and help each other out in every battle that takes place. I can’t remember the last time I saw female characters in a movie getting along like this. It is such a refreshing change of pace.
— Briana Mae Morgan (@brianawrites) July 19, 2016
What I love most about Ghostbusters is its potential to change popular culture. If the film does as well as I hope it does commercially, it serves as a statement to Hollywood that people want female-led films. We want to be entertained, certainly, but we also want to see strong, capable female characters banding together to save the world. We want to see friendships, teamwork, and heroism. More than anything, we want to see women who are real.
When developing female characters, I hope to keep in mind the way I felt emerging from the theater after watching the new film, and that is triumphant. Ghostbusters succeeds not only at an entertainment level, but also from a cultural-critique perspective as well. It serves as the spark that could ignite the powder keg of traditional, male-driven filmmaking, and more than anything, I want to be around to witness that explosion.