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The Social Network, and most other films, don't pass the Bechdel Test

simon wallace

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and actors Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake (L-R) pose for photographers to promote their new film The Social Network, at the Dorchester hotel in London October 7, 2010. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty   (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT PROFILE)

This falls into the “this is a good thing to know,” as opposed to the “this is definitely good news (!),” category. The Bechdel Test is a quick and dirty way to gauge the sexism of a movie, invented 25 years ago by Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist and writer of Dykes to Watch Out For. A film needs to meet three criteria to pass:

  1. It must have at least two female characters;
  2. They must talk to one another at some point;
  3. They must talk at least once about anything other than men.

So how does Hollywood do?  You can go take a look at the statistics and graphs yourself but, the bottom line is: not well. Of the movies reviewed at only half (half!) pass. The most shocking number: 13% of the movies have only two points—meaning slightly more than a tenth of the reviewed films feature women who only talk about men.

It’s not as if the films of the 1960s are skewing the numbers or anything. This is a pattern that, if anything, is picking up momentum. Let’s go over some recent releases: The Social Network (one point), How to Train your Dragon (one point), Inception (two points—women who are dreamed up by men don’t count), The Trotsky (two points), Iron Man 2 (two points), The A-Team (zero points), etc.

Of course, a movie having three points doesn’t automatically mean it’s feminist-friendly (go check out some of the comments on the latest Twilight movie which, on a technicality, squeaked out a pass). In this case failing means a whole lot more than passing but, for your own edification at least, the Bechdel Test is…revealing.

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