Are you sitting down? Because I’ve got something pretty radical to tell you.
Women sometimes talk about things that don’t pertain to men.
Let that sink in for a moment.
“But Jessica,” you might say, “of course women have opinions on other topics. Why on earth would you think you’re being radical?”
Because you’d be surprised at how often entertainment mediums fail to recognize this fact. To call out this oversight in Hollywood in 1985, Alison Bechdel introduced the Bechdel test in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. An unnamed character proclaimed that she’ll only watch a movie if it satisfies three simple requirements:
- There must be at least two women in it.
- These two (or more) women must talk to one another.
- The topic of conversation must not be about a man.
While this seems easy enough, a surprising number of films fail to meet these requirements—even in modern-day cinema. We’ve compiled a list of a few of the most prominent movies from the past three years that fail the Bechdel test.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Spider-Man? Sorry, buddy. No matter how many young fans adore your superhero ways, you weren’t quite amazing enough to escape the scrutinizing gaze of the Bechdel test. Would it have killed you to have one scene where Gwen talks to Felicia about her workday?
One might argue that this movie’s failure to pass the Bechdel test is due largely to its source material. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit about a male character that travels around Middle-earth with 14 other male characters. Sadly, this means that the chances of finding a place to insert a scene with two women who don’t discuss any of those male characters are slim. Peter Jackson was not quite up to the task (though to his credit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, did pass the test).
The Maze Runner (2014)
This is another movie that can blame its source material. Based on the popular YA series by James Dashner, The Maze Runner explores themes of gender disparity. Because the majority of the women in the series don’t arrive until later installments, the introductory story doesn’t feature any scenes that pass the test.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
I’m starting to sense a theme with all of these superhero movies, aren’t you? Despite the fact that Days of Future Past contains several named women, none of them engage in conversation with each other. There’s one scene where Mystique converses with a French maid; however, some feminist critics argue that because the maid wasn’t given a name (a requirement some proponents have added later that mandates the women be slightly more important), the scene doesn’t count, and therefore, the movie fails the test.
Ender’s Game (2013)
Based on the popular sci-fi series by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game is another big-budget movie that fails. While there are several named female characters in the movie, they don’t engage in any meaningful conversation with one another. Two of the female characters do have one small exchange, but it’s about the title character, Ender.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
That’s right—we’ve got another sci-fi entry on the list. There are only two named female characters in the movie, and they never interact with one another. Uhura, a character that’s been around since the original Star Trek series, merely plays a love interest, despite her future role aboard the ship as a lieutenant. If you’ve got someone as beautiful as Zoe Saldana in your movie, I suppose you’d be remiss to do anything more than objectify her.
The Avengers (2012)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from this list, it’s that superhero movies and sci-fi movies can’t make any room for women to chat with one another. We continue our depressing journey through the land of superhero films with The Avengers. While one of our avengers is a woman and we have a named S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the mix, they never converse with one another in the film.
While movies that fail the Bechdel test span various genres, it appears as though the big-budget sci-fi and superhero movies fail more often than most. Time will tell if there are any brave filmmakers out there willing to shake up the status quo.
Bechdel Rewind: Classics That Didn’t Make the Cut
If you have a soft, sensitive heart, you may want to avert your eyes. I’m about to shatter your hopes and dreams by revealing the top ten geeky classics that also fail the Bechdel test. You’ve been warned.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
- Star Wars Original trilogy (1977–1983)
- Superman (1978)
- Ghostbusters (1984)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
- Back to the Future (1985)
- The Princess Bride (1987)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003)
- Avatar (2009)
Image of Spiderman via Marvel. Image of The Hobbit courtesy of Warner Bros.. Image of the Maze Runner courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Image of X-Men: Days of Future Past via Marvel. Image of Ender’s Game courtesy of OddLot Entertainment/Summit Entertainment. Image of Star Trek Into Darkness courtesy of Spyglass Entertainment. Image of Thor courtesy of Marvel.