1720 Only A Test.


For those of you unfamiliar with the “Bechdel Test” AKA the Bechdel-Wallace Test it goes something like this:
Does a (work of fiction) have two female characters?
Do they speak to one another about something other than a man?
It is, arguably, a test for the bare minimum of gender equality in fiction. Pop culture has elevated it way above its intended purpose. It’s a very easy test to beat. You could just dress two women in bikinis and have them talk about how sweet their tits look in them and pass the test. Of course it was never meant to be anything more than a warning really, or a joke if we’re being honest, but it’s gotten bound up in gender issues in a way far beyond what it was built for.

Some really amazing things don’t pass it and some truly terrible ones do. You kind of have to look at the larger picture of things sometimes, but the test does at least succeed in getting people to stop and look at things, so on balance it’s a good thing. Unfortunately it get’s tossed around so much that it’s on my list of annoying things that get brought up constantly.

I no longer remember at what point any two of the girls first speak about something other than a man. Even before that point I know I made an effort to give all the characters clear motivations regardless of gender.

In any event the test comes around over and over for whatever reason. The first time I remember it being brought up it was practically a witch hunt in the webcomics “community” with everyone going over everyone else’s work, and their own, to prove how progressive and good they were, or weren’t. It became a badge to wear, or a weapon to wield. Much the same way the term Mary Sue gets used, or its male counterpart. It gets misused as a way to dismiss something without having to actually look at it.

Star Wars doesn’t pass the test. Princess Leia saves the boys and is clearly smarter than Luke, and every bit as smart and witty as Han, but she never speaks to another woman. Not once in any of the films. I’m pretty sure that none of the Star Wars films pass the test. Possibly the prequels, but if they do it’s only because Padme speaks briefly to a retainer, or some such thing. Not even E7 or Rogue One. Movies that have female protagonists. (I forgot about Maz in E7, which is pretty telling about that film in general…) The Clone Wars cartoons don’t pass until way late in the run as far as I can remember. Rebels gets there quicker since there are two female leads, although I couldn’t tell you when it happens specifically. It may be in the second season.

I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think Harry Potter passes the test. In spite of Hermione being the brains of the operation I couldn’t tell you a single instance of her talking to another girl. Not even Luna or Ginny. It may, but I can’t remember for sure.

At any rate, I understand the point of the test. It’s an alarm bell. It basically asks people to think a little deeper about women in fiction, which is ultimately good and important when used as intended.