14 Apr 2014

RULE ROAD TEST - The Bechdel test (Slasher Films)

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  The Bechdel Test, highlights gender-bias in film, how do Slashers fare against it?

The Bechdel test is a rule devised to demonstrate the gender-bias of the film industry as a whole.  A person following the rule will refuse to watch a film that does not past the test:

  • That two or more named females talk about something other than a man.
The rule points out that film is dominated by male characters, to the point where some films can fail even the first part (by not having two named female characters) and that even when there are female character, they exist only to support (and thus only talk about) the male character(s).

Like any test, the application of it can be disputed, and I'm grading hard.

The test says nothing about whether a specific film is or isn't misogynistic, but rather notes the gender bias of films or genres.  Passing the test is no guarantee that a film isn't misogynistic.  Slasher films are notoriously misogynistic, although some engender female empowerment via the the final girl.  But, let's have some fun and run the test anyway.

Psycho (1960)

  • Marion Crane and her co-worker (Caroline) about headaches and tranquilisers at about 7min.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Sam tells Bob to got out an get some lunch so he could talk to Lila at about 1hr 1min.  Pass.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

  • Helen introduces herself to Barbra... but as Harry's wife.
  • Judy asks Barbra to come downstairs, but Barbra doesn't answer until Ben talks to her.
  • Fail.

Reverse Bechdel

  • At about 40min, Ben, Harry and Tom argue about whether Harry, Tom and the others should have come out the cellar sooner.  Barbra's screams are discussed, but only as part of the bigger argument.  They have many other non-female related discussions.  Pass.

Halloween (1978)

  • Laurie, Lynda and Lindsey (at about the 20 min mark) discuss school commitments, studying, etc (although boys do come up pretty quickly).  Pass.
  • Other such conversations may occur but this conversation means that it passes the test.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Loomis & Wynn argue about Michael's escape at about the 15min.  Plenty of other male-male conversations occur about Michael.  Pass.

Alien (1979)

  • Ripley and Lambert has a very brief conversation (about 9:25 - 10min) about the fact that they aren't in the right system (Caine is tangentally involved in the conversation).  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • During breakfast many of the males talk to each other about contracts and bonuses at about 7min.  Pass.

Friday the 13th (1980)

  • Annie talks at the unidentified driver (Mrs Vorhees) of a vehicle she hitches a lift in.  We never hear the driver speak.
  • Brenda & Marcie briefly discuss the benefits of vitamin C at about 23min.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Officer Dorf talks to the camp counsellors in a group, male and female, but talks specifically to Ned and Jack at points at about 26mins.  Pass.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

  • Footage is reused from the previous film has flashbacks to conversations between Alice Hardy and Pamela Vorhees about Jason, or about the killer (referred to as a "he", although it was really Pamela Vorhees) and those he's killed (referred to as "them", both male and female victims).  I'll discount it due to being reused footage anyway.
  • Soon after Alice talks to her mother on the phone about her state of mental health.  The mother is never head or named.
  • Ginny Field tells the Frog-In-A-Blender joke to a mixed group, but it is Vickie who feeds her the straight line.
  • Vickie tells a unnamed trainee counsellor not to drink too much.  But that's an unnamed character.
  • Fail.

Reverse Bechdel 
  • Paul Holt address mixed groups a couple of times.
  • Ted finishes cooking on the barbie and yells "Come and get 'em", Jeff already standing next to him points out "I'm here" at about 32min. Pass.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

  • Sister Margaret have many conversation with the Mother Superior about Billy, and the Mother Superiour isn't named so it fails on 2 counts.
  • Denise convinces Cindy to go back to bed and not wait up for Santa.  Much of the conversation is about doing homework and going to bed, but Santa is also part of the conversation and Tommy (who is on top of Denise at the time) is implied in the "we're doing our homework."
  • Fail.
Reverse Bechdel 
  • At about 4min, Dr Conway tells Billy's father Jim Chapman that he's moved Jim's father to the rec room.  Pass.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

  • Nancy Thompson and Christina "Tina" Grey discuss dreams, but then Freddy Kruger was causing them. 
  • Nancy and her mother Marge discuss whether she should go to school or not at about 20min.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Lt Thompson and Sgt Parker discuss Tina's murder, but Tina is female.
  • Lt Thompson and Sgt Parker discuss Glenn's murder at about 1hr 6min.  Pass.

Scream (1996)

  • Sidney Prescott and Tatum Riley discuss the murders, but they are the murders of Steve and Casey.  They later talk on the phone about Tatum coming over (because Sidney's father is away) and about the police and media attention because of the murders.  A later phone call refers again to the murders and to Tom Cruise's penis.
  • Tatum Riley refuses to answer any of Gale Weathers about Sidney and whether a costume was found outside her house at about 31min.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Deputy "Dewey" Riley and Sheriff Burke discuss the availability of the Scream mask and Billy Loomis's phone records at about 33min.  There are other male-male discussions of the murder of Casey and Steve before that.  Pass.

Wolf Creek (2004)

  • Liz Hunter and Kristy Earl talk about Ben Mitchell.
  • Eventually, they argue about whether to go back to killer's lair for keys to a car at about 1hr 8min.  Pass.

Reverse Bechdel

  • Ben Mitchell and Ben Taylor discuss the charge for fixing thier vehicle at about 37min.  Pass.


  • 7 passed, 3 failed.
  • Many of the passes were very brief conversations and only one of.
  • Significantly, no reverse tests fail.
  • In 4 of 7 the pass the female test, the female conversation actually occurs earlier than the male.

~ DUG.

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