24 Jul 2014

RULE ROAD TEST - The Bechdel tests (Rom Coms)

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.  Rom Coms are usually labelled "chick flicks" but some would argue that their focus on needing a relationship to be happy makes them bad for anyone who takes them too seriously.

I'm also looking at the Reverse Bechdel Test:
  • That two or more named males talk about something other than a woman.
Obviously most films will pass this test.  Which is kind of the point, to show the difference between the two results.

A newer test is the Racial Bechdel Test or the Bechdel Test for People of Color.  This is, obviously, based on the Bechdel Test but for race.  The same caution as with the normal Bechdel test should be used - a film can pass the test and still be considered racist or fail and not be racist (except the obvious white-washing).
  • Two or more named people of colour talk about something other than white people.

Let's look the results of all 3 tests.

Roman Holiday (1953)

  • The Princess and Countess Vereberg discuss duty, schedules, nightgowns vs pyjama tops and whether people sleep naked.  Besides the Countess and Princess Ann here are few other women in the film and fewer still named.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • The men in the film have many discussions, including at a poker game and about work (although some of those are about the Princess.)  Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no named people of colour in the film.  Fail.

Educating Rita (1983)

  • Record Julia, 14:45 Rita relates a storyabout a discussion with her mother.  She has a discussion with Trish after her suicide attempt.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • At about 16:10 Frank is in a discussion with Brian about the fact that he was drunk while teaching.  Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no named people of colour in the film.  Fail.

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

  • Annie and her family have a discussion at dinner, when the women speak to each other is about the men in their lives.  Annie and her mother discuss the wedding, meeting men and true love when she's trying on a wedding dress.  Annie and her boss talk about a lot of things, but even in work meetings the topic is me.  Fail.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Annie and her family have a discussion at dinner, and men speak to each other (not about women, about allergies).  At around 27:30 Sam and his son wish each other a Happy New Year.  Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no named people of colour in the film.  Fail.

4 Weddings & A Funeral (1993)

  • During the opening credits, Fiona says good morning to a female servant she called Mrs Staples.  The there is some words thrown around by bridesmaids about the wedding dress.
  • At around 6:50 Fiona and Scarlett have a few words about the wedding dress.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Around 5:40, Angus and Charles briefly discuss Charles's lateness and the wedding rings.    Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no named people of colour in the film.  Fail.

  • Kimmy offers Julianne the role of Maid of Honour offer around 12 minutes into the film (almost immediately that they meet).  They have many other conversations not all about men.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • There a no male-male conversations.  Since the film focuses on Julianne's character, that is hardly a surprise.  Fail.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no named people of colour in the film.  Fail.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

  • Bianca and Chasity discuss backpacks at about 5 minutes.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Michael shows Cameron around the school starting around 3:30.  It takes about a minute and a half until it becomes about a girl... leading to the above conversation.  Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are two named people of colour in the film, a teacher Mr Morgan and Bianca's friend Chasity.  They do not speak.  Fail.

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

  • Around 0:30, Una and Pam have a quick discussion about where the doilies are (under the mini-gerkins).  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • Bridget's friend Tom talks to an unnamed stranger about the song he sang in the 80s.  There is the end of Salman Rushdie discussing Martin's definition of the short story and novella.  Darcy and Cleaver talk (and fight) but about Darcy's ex-wife and Bridget.  Fail.
Racial Bechdel
  • There are no people of colour in the film.  Fail.

Imagine Me & You (2005)

  • At about 2 minutes, Luce and Edie talk about Edie's night out and hooking up.  Since they're both lesbians there is a possibility that this conversation men.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • At 19:30, Heck and his boss Rob talk to a client and "the truth."  Pass.

Racial Bechdel
  • There are a few, minor, characters who are people of colour (all female).  They do not speak.  Fail.

Knocked Up (2007)

  • Not counting Alison talking to young girls.  She discusses her promotion with her sister, although her brother in-law is part of the conversation (8:40).  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • A whole group of guys talk about a bet and their website at about 4 minutes.  Pass.

Racial Bechdel
  • There are a few, minor, characters who are people of colour.  They do not speak.  Fail.

Friends With Benefits (2011)

  • Jamie and her mum (Lorna) mostly talk about men and sex.  They arrange a weekend together, but it's in the context of "no men" and is mostly about men in previous trips together and Jamie's dad.  A later conversation occurs about the trip, which starts out about whether her new boyfriend is a boy or a girl, but it is mostly about the trip, although Lorna is half asleep at the time at about 52 minutes.  Pass.
Reverse Bechdel
  • At about 11:30 Dylan and Shaun White talk.  Well, Shaun threatens Dylan, but they talk.  Pass.
Racial Bechdel
  • Jamie is of mixed heritage (it is discussed but never clarified).  There are a few, minor, characters who are people of colour.  They do not speak.  Fail.


  • 9 passed, 1 failed.  [Compared with Slasher Test in which:  7 passed, 3 failed.]
  • Varies between a few brief conversations and longer ones [compared with mostly brief conversations with Slasher films]
  • 2 Reverse Bechdel fail. [No reverse test fails in Slasher films.]
  • In 2/7 films the female conversation occurs first.  (In 3/7 Slasher films the female conversation occured first.)
  • No Racial Bechdel Test passes.  [No data for Slasher films.]
~ DUG.

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