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Screen Test

Tuesday 16 July 2013, 14:40

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Thirty years ago cartoonist Alison Bechdel came up with a simple test for movies to see whether women had a proper role. It's not significant of whether a film is great or not but you'd be amazed by how many films fail.

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Sadly we still live in a profoundly misogynistic world and there's no reason to expect the movie industry to be any different.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    A very good theory, not only will it diminish misogyny, but it will also try and propel a film starring women into something more and hopefully it will destroy the despicable genre known as chick flick.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    'APOCALYPSE NOW' doesn't....
    but 'BITCH SLAP' does..... interesting

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    The 1987 classic Superman IV: The Quest for Peace has two named female characters, Lois Lane and Lacy Warfield, am fairly sure they talk to each other, but about superman... It is also the only film that has ever made me accidentally jump out of a window.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 5.

    The last film was "The Lone Ranger." It fails the test spectacularly. There's two female characters I remember in the whole film, and they don't talk to each other at all.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    Should the criteria be that the two female characters do not converse about men and the conversation does not happen during a fight ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    According to the IMDB Lawrence of Arabia "Although 227 minutes long, this film has no women in speaking roles. It is reportedly the longest film not to have any dialogue spoken by a woman"

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    Comment number 8.

    'Pacific Rim' would have been great if it had an all female cast now coming to think of it. It saddens me to see The man behind 'Cronos' and 'Pan's Labyrinth' is now reduced to Michael Bay disguised as the Mexican auteur...Sad!

    Women in movies seem to be much stronger than their male counterparts; Ripley carries this off with aplomb. In the hands of a male protaganist there is a wanten need for destruction. I guess we have more empathy for women in difficult situations than men; it's the motherly love and protective attitude that weakens us males. All that women are reduced to now are cliched dramas of love and seperation; material exploitation, (Sex and the City etc.).

  • rate this
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    Comment number 9.

    Sex in the City and Sex in the City 2 both pass.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    I saw The East the other day, think that passes.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    I'm not a big fan of The Bechdel Test as for me it needlessly complicates the issue. Surely the problem is simply that the main protagonists in films are nearly always male, due to Hollywood's belief that men will not accept a female lead? The points raised by Bechdel are just a minor byproduct of this - supporting characters are generally there to further the protagonist's story so are unlikely to be shown having an unrelated conversation.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 12.

    There's a reversal of the test, which my film tutor named after himself called The Lacey Test: are there two named men and do they have a conversation about something other than women.

    The only film I can remember seeing recently that fails that test is Black Swan.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    I think part of the problem, although not all of it, is that while modern screenwriters self-consciously include an archetypal Strong Female Character, Hollywood's first instinct for writing and casting supporting characters is always to make them male, unless they need to be female for story reasons. For example, if it's a wise teacher, an abrasive doctor, an overbearing cop, or a sleazy business suit, ninety percent of the time you'll get a male actor in the role. So the worlds of movies tend to be these strangely gender disbalanced places, where female characters don't tend to come into contact with each other because they're outnumbered by males.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    If memory serves me Virus (1999 with Jamie Lee-Curits and Donald Sutherland) had two strong female characters that spoke and not just about the man. Same with Deep Blue Sea, Aliens and Alien Resurection (please don't ask me to name them but they are named). Didn't the first Resident Evil have two women.

    What has always interested me is the survial rate of the two women in action films... two women of breeding age - only one will make it. Pitch Black taught me that.... ok it's not a 100% theory but it's pretty good.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    Just through Sunshine the same thing. Could Action movies really be leading the way?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    I'm pretty sure none of the Before Sunrise films pass this test, does that mean they are more suitable for a Comic-Con audience?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    12. Will Chadwick

    Nearly every film ever made.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    Pan's Labyrinth is a spectacular win on this test. The original Wicker Man is an odd fail because although there are more than two named female characters they don't actually talk to each other, although they do act in concert non-verbally so maybe that counts. Interesting test, which, as we know, almost all blockbuster movies fail.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    Thank you Mark as I have never heard of that test either. My first thought was The Thin Red Line but then thinking about it ALL of Malick's films fail. But The Thin Red Line is the most guilty, one female character shown without name or dialogue purely in flash back.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    I came up with the film Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter. They are after a male killer so does the test specify just men or romantic aspirations

 

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