Movies Passing the Bechdel Test for Sexism Earned More in 2013

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Movies Passing the Bechdel Test for Sexism Earned More in 2013

Blockbusters that passed the Bechdel Test did better overall in 2013 than those that failed.

It's fairly well accepted that popular Hollywood films tend to suck when it comes to portrayals of women. Often, if a woman isn't treated like a goal or a prize for a man, their sole purpose in life is the pursuit of one. It's an ugly habit of the film industry that somehow persists despite the fact that women (half the freaking human race) are just as deep, intellectual and complicated as men.

That being the case, if 2013 was any indicator, the reign of the vapid film female may be coming to an end. A recent analysis of the year's 50 most successful blockbusters revealed that movies featuring women in more substantial roles by-and-large made more money than their more masculine counterparts. The analysis involved running the included films through the Bechdel Test. For those not in the know, the Bechdel Test simply asks whether a movie has two or more women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man. Popular 2013 films that passed the test included The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Man of Steel and Elysium. Among the failures you can count Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Pacific Rim.

It's worth noting that both the successes and failures were split into two tiers depending on just how well/poorly they did in the test. Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, for instance, both just barely passed. A special exception was also granted to Gravity on account of it only featuring two characters with the primary focus being on a woman. Altogether, the films that passed the Bechdel Test managed to gross a $4.22 billion. Comparatively, the failures only accumulated $2.66 billion. It should be noted that the test isn't perfect, of course. For instance, while Pacific Rim technically failed, you could make a good case for it possessing one of the coolest female leads for an action film in ages. Likewise, The Desolation of Smaug actually added a completely new female character to a story that otherwise would have been a Dwarven Sausage fest. Nonetheless, the results are certainly interesting and we'll be eager to see how 2014 stacks up comparatively.

Source: Vocativ

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Well, at least it's not videogames that have to put up with the continuous sexism debates.

The thing is, what is the relevance of posting these stats? No Hollywood producer is going to so naive as to believe CERTAIN movies were successful simply because they had two female characters who talked to each other for a certain amount of time on something other than the topic of a man.

Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

A pointless thing that makes the folks in Hollywood feel good about themselves. The test is shallow and nearly useless, as the article explains in much nicer language.

I like how Gravity broke the Bechdel test. :D

The Bechdel Test is a great place to start when writing female characters and stories in general. But, like Wikipedia, it is not where you stop.

An Ceannaire:

Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

The issue isn't as confrontational as that...

Basically, games have been pretty darn good at this whole "game" thing for a rather long time. Graphics and gameplay, those are both advancing (or regressing, in some cases) at the normal rate for an entertainment medium. Some games have better of both, some have worse of both, some have a mix.

That's good!

What games lack is really good storytelling. But, to be fair, MOST forms of entertainment have this issue. Loads of movies and TV shows and books are badly written.

Speaking as an author (as in, I've actually published a novel and worked in the novel writing business for a few years), diversity is merely one of the many ways to make your books better and more awesome. The reasons are manifold, but some just plucked from the top of my head...creativity (new cultures and ways of looking at the world inspire new stories, new design, new ideas), inclusivity (if you have a lot of well written, well rounded characters of various backgrounds, then all us real people of varying backgrounds are drawn in, and that means a bigger fanbase, a more diverse fanbase, and that means a better fanbase in my opinion.)

Oh, and lets not forget, getting into the heads of someone other than the author is good FOR THE AUTHOR. It makes you more creative, empathic, and...generally a nicer person.

So, basically, I want games to keep the awesome fun gameplay, the badass graphics...I just want them to be better written. And I want that to be true of every single medium, to be honest...

A standard test for sexism in movies, seriously?

Boy, this is beyond stupid...

An Ceannaire:
Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

I miss the glorious days of classics like Postal 2, Duke Nukem 3D and Redneck Rampage...

Chaosritter:

I miss the glorious days of classics like Postal 2, Duke Nukem 3D and Redneck Rampage...

...Saints Row 4?

(Which, by the way, passes the Bechdal Test.)

An Ceannaire:
The thing is, what is the relevance of posting these stats? No Hollywood producer is going to so naive as to believe CERTAIN movies were successful simply because they had two female characters who talked to each other for a certain amount of time on something other than the topic of a man.

Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

The message here isn't that films aimed at something besides a scrupulously masculine viewpoint are *good*. This isn't a "social responsibility" chart; it's a SALES chart. The point is that there's money in broadening your audience.

This strikes me as some pretty big correlation = causation bullshit.

Is this whats going to happen now, a writer writes an original script and the producers tell him to rewrite it to pass the bechdel test? I know that its just a way to see how woman are portrayed in cinema. But are we going to have this for people of colour? Gay and trans people? Or actors of certain ages? A film is what it is, its telling a story that the writer wanted to tell and how the directer sees it and if it took into account every little thing the movie would be a mess. If it had an all female cast would it be judged badly for its lack of male characters? No. Wish they would just allow film makers to make the movies they want with out all these hassles.

How did Pacific Rim fail, they had a female Kaiju. :-)

Namewithheld:

...Saints Row 4?

(Which, by the way, passes the Bechdal Test.)

And there's GTAV, which doesn't pass the test. Yet GTA made a lot more money than SR4.

So all the in-thread outcry for the "classic days of vidya games" seems a bit pre-mature.

Personally, I did enjoy SR4 much more than GTAV. So maybe there's something to the Bechdel test that can be applied to interactive media. At least, for some people.

Namewithheld:

Chaosritter:

I miss the glorious days of classics like Postal 2, Duke Nukem 3D and Redneck Rampage...

...Saints Row 4?

(Which, by the way, passes the Bechdal Test.)

Saints Row funnily enough is probably one of the less macho games in its genre - it's very inclusive homicidal insanity.

SonOfVoorhees:
Is this whats going to happen now, a writer writes an original script and the producers tell him to rewrite it to pass the bechdel test? I know that its just a way to see how woman are portrayed in cinema. But are we going to have this for people of colour? Gay and trans people? Or actors of certain ages? A film is what it is, its telling a story that the writer wanted to tell and how the directer sees it and if it took into account every little thing the movie would be a mess. If it had an all female cast would it be judged badly for its lack of male characters? No. Wish they would just allow film makers to make the movies they want with out all these hassles.

How did Pacific Rim fail, they had a female Kaiju. :-)

No, but what might happen is that writers who created scripts and plots that managed not to marginalise 50% of the global population actually get their scripts picked up a little more often, rather than the ones who didn't even manage to put in two or more female characters by accident (seriously, law of averages).

There's another argument to be had about representation of various minorities, but women aren't even a minority and they're struggling for representation, and the goal of things like this is (presumably) to prove that that's ridiculous.

SonOfVoorhees:
Is this whats going to happen now, a writer writes an original script and the producers tell him to rewrite it to pass the bechdel test? I know that its just a way to see how woman are portrayed in cinema. But are we going to have this for people of colour? Gay and trans people? Or actors of certain ages? A film is what it is, its telling a story that the writer wanted to tell and how the directer sees it and if it took into account every little thing the movie would be a mess. If it had an all female cast would it be judged badly for its lack of male characters? No. Wish they would just allow film makers to make the movies they want with out all these hassles.

How did Pacific Rim fail, they had a female Kaiju. :-)

You know, I think you're seeing massive problems where there aren't any to be found. Seriously, who is talking about that anywhere? If fact, the inverse seems to be the bigger problem, that producers are forcing movies to be about white men most of the time because it'll sell better. Remember that whole controversy about Edge of Tomorrow where it stared Tom Cruse despite being based off of a work where the main character was Japanese? And my friend said that the main female character in the last Percy Jackson movie was supposed to have a rough look to her, but the actress who played her ended up being very good looking. I don't know where you're getting the idea that the PC police are going to start stopping all movies from being the way they want to be. Producers are already mucking them up with the safe and well traveled path instead of letting them take risks, so really the problem is the opposite of what you're talking about.

Yes, but did the female Kaiju talk to another female Kaiju about something other than men? If no, then it still fails.

I'd argue correlation =/= causation in this case; not many of the movies that passed openly used women in the promotional material and I highly doubt they used them passing the Bechdel test in advertising.

I do like the Bechdel test as a good way of demonstrating lack of female representation in movies, but it isn't an objective measurement of how sexist a movie is as it really lacks all context on the nature of the characters (see Gravity technically failing despite the main character being a woman).

Twenty Ninjas:
This strikes me as some pretty big correlation = causation bullshit.

Actually, the point is to show the viability of female characters that have opinions not involving men visibly on screen, not to imply causation. It is to push back against general perceptions by producers about what they think will sell.

the bedchel test is dubious at best and that the most successful movies passed it is pure coincidence.
in a nutshell its this comic:
image
only you just need to replace videogames and gamers with sexism, feminism and strong independent woman.

keep on cherry picking...

I always suspect whenever I hear talk of Bechdel-based assessment of media that it says more about the test itself and the people applying it than it actually does about the media. As noted, The Hobbit created a whole new character to try and deal with the issue of the lack of females in the original work, and they still got slammed by the test for not doing it "right".

On top of that, I don't really get how the test is supposed to be applied. If a film has four women in it, and two of them talk to each other about not-a-man and the other two talk about a man, or do so sometimes but not all the time, or...? And then there's rot like assessing A Good Day To Die Hard, a movie with absolutely sod all to do with gender politics and a hell of a lot about the disconnect between generations.

In conclusion, most places that discuss the results of any given Bechdel test do so while acknowledging that it isn't the be-all-and-end-all of assessing media - and this isn't one of them.

Is this really news worthy? The "test" itself is a joke.

Phrozenflame500:
I'd argue correlation =/= causation in this case; not many of the movies that passed openly used women in the promotional material and I highly doubt they used them passing the Bechdel test in advertising.

I do like the Bechdel test as a good way of demonstrating lack of female representation in movies, but it isn't an objective measurement of how sexist a movie is as it really lacks all context on the nature of the characters (see Gravity technically failing despite the main character being a woman).

Gravity didn't fail (note that it is in a separate category in the middle), rather, Gravity could not be scored because of the very nature of the narrative being comprised solely of two named people.

EDIT: It would be like scoring Cast Away if the only scenes were the ones that took place on the island.

The Gentleman:

Twenty Ninjas:
This strikes me as some pretty big correlation = causation bullshit.

Actually, the point is to show the viability of female characters that have opinions not involving men visibly on screen, not to imply causation. It is to push back against general perceptions by producers about what they think will sell.

This is the bit that people seem to be missing over and over - the facts don't support Bechdel-passing movies performing better, and they don't need to. They just need to establish that women aren't movie poison, and you don't need to "play it safe" by insisting on all-male casts. Aside from, say, prison movies, or adaptations of literary works, there ought to be a *strong* justification for an all-male movie(or an all-female movie, equally).

[EDIT: Just in case it's not clear, I'm quoting The Gentleman because I agree, but I just realized my tone makes it sound like I don't. Whoops.]

The Gentleman:
Gravity didn't fail (note that it is in a separate category in the middle), rather, Gravity could not be scored because of the very nature of the narrative being comprised solely of two named people.

That's rather dishonest. Because Gravity fails pure and simple. It does not have two women, end of story. Test failed.

Which is completely fine. The test was never created for the purpose of something all movies or even a vast majority must pass. It was created purely to show women's position in general media at times where the vast majority of movies would fail it. That's it's entire purpose, to explain the test and then ask someone to name a few movies that pass it, which they'd generally used to be unable to do purely from memory. Thus potentially making people aware of the issue.

The very moment it becomes easy to name half a dozen movies that do pass it without even thinking about it the test has completely lost it's purpose and is no longer relevant ( note: this does not imply a lack of sexism, merely that it's time for another measure ).

I just wish people learned how the Bechdel test works. It does not comment on the quality of individual movies so it's utterly pointless to gripe about how certain individual films fail it. This could have been pointed out in the actual article too, since people still don't seem to understand it.

Hagi:
Gravity fails pure and simple. It does not have two women, end of story. Test failed.
Which is completely fine.

Exactly! There is no need to panic or make exceptions when movies with "strong female leads" fail the test, because failing the test is not the end of the world. Failing the test doesn't make a film bad or sexist. A film that fails the Bechdel test may have an amazingly written female lead. The point of the test is not to weed out feminist movies from the sexist shlock. Passing the test doesn't make a movie a feminist movie or a female friendly movie. This is because the point of the test is to reveal general trends in the way women are portrayed in movies. It's not a useful tool in analyzing the merits of individual movies.

Hagi:
The test was never created for the purpose of something all movies or even a vast majority must pass. It was created purely to show women's position in general media at times where the vast majority of movies would fail it. That's it's entire purpose, to explain the test and then ask someone to name a few movies that pass it, which they'd generally used to be unable to do purely from memory. Thus potentially making people aware of the issue.

Well put.

Another big advantage of the test, despite its obvious flaws, is that it is an entirely objective measurement. It's very difficult to objectively measure whether a movie has a 'strong female character', for example.

And of course it's easy to point to films that fail the test while featuring great female characters (Run Lola Run is often cited, for example) but as you say, it was only ever intended as a marker of the poor visibility of women in movies in general, not the quality of any individual movie. Its very ludicrousness is a key part of that.

And if I were a writer submitting a script idea and someone pointed out it didn't pass the Bechdel test, I'd be embarrassed - wow, I didn't find space for even two named female characters who have a conversation? That's pretty bad.

Incidentally, has anyone ever coined the term 'Blechdel test' for the racial equivalent? If not, I'm going to lay claim to it now.

The Bechdel test is extremely useful to demonstrate the actual quantifiable differences between the genders in films to even the densest of observers. Great to see that modern audiences are finally catching up to what relevant critics have been saying for years.

Kinitawowi:

I don't really get how the test is supposed to be applied. If a film has four women in it, and two of them talk to each other about not-a-man and the other two talk about a man, or do so sometimes but not all the time, or...?

Then it passes.

The test is, that the movies in question must have a SINGLE SCENE of two women talking to each other about not-men.

Kinitawowi:

And then there's rot like assessing A Good Day To Die Hard, a movie with absolutely sod all to do with gender politics and a hell of a lot about the disconnect between generations.

If anything, "a movie with absolutely sod all to do with gender politics" is the most relevant subject of the Bechedel Test.

After all, a movie about feminism would have a good reason for every single one of it's scenes discussing women's relation to men.

But here we have an entirely random movie, with dozens of scenes of characters interacting with each other in a generic plot, yet it somehow STILL ends up being so tilted in the direction of a self-evidently assumed male point of view, that NOT ONE of these scenes of characters interacting with each other happen to be two women.

Kinitawowi:

In conclusion, most places that discuss the results of any given Bechdel test do so while acknowledging that it isn't the be-all-and-end-all of assessing media - and this isn't one of them.

The point of interest isn't "any given Bechdel" as it is applied to the specific movie, but the how Bechdel test applies to the media as a whole.

Hence the 50 movie chart, instead of condemning any specific movie.

Maybe A Good Day To Die Hard's writers weren't sexists, it was all just a strange coincidence. But from the 50, there were 13 others that also failed to have a single female-female dialogue, and further 9 others failed to make such dialogue to be about something else than men.

How would the reverse apply? I can't think of literally ANY everyday story EVER that would coincidentially forget to have male-male dialogues, the only ones would be specific outlier plots about a women's prison, or The Last Man on Earth, or something.

And even a full Reverse Bechdel would only be failed by one or two movies on the whole 50 list, the ones with critically small casts that don't give a chance to it's male and female leads to talk about anything but each other.

MinionJoe:

Namewithheld:

...Saints Row 4?

(Which, by the way, passes the Bechdal Test.)

And there's GTAV, which doesn't pass the test. Yet GTA made a lot more money than SR4.

So all the in-thread outcry for the "classic days of vidya games" seems a bit pre-mature.

Personally, I did enjoy SR4 much more than GTAV. So maybe there's something to the Bechdel test that can be applied to interactive media. At least, for some people.

GTA certainly does pass the test. In fact, toy don't even have to play it long to see the segment. Franklin's Aunt appears multiple times, talking to her female group or another female friend, and generally the discussion is about female empowerment. Yes, they portray it in a satirical manner, but that is only poking fun at their militant approach, not the actual need for empowerment. And I'm sure if I were to give another play through, I could find a segment with Michael's wife and daughter talking about something other than boys.

Awesome. Hopefully this means a more movies where women are portrayed as people with interests other than men.

Btw, as a point of reference, any girl on girl porn featuring two large breasted bimbo types in schoolgirl outfits passes this test, therefore NOT SEXIST!

prepare to erase search history, free of the guilt of playing into gender politics. Just gotta make sure there's no men in it, that would be sexist.

An Ceannaire:
The thing is, what is the relevance of posting these stats? No Hollywood producer is going to so naive as to believe CERTAIN movies were successful simply because they had two female characters who talked to each other for a certain amount of time on something other than the topic of a man.

Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

I think that people see a correlation and causation in something that isn't there. Iron Man 3 was lumped in with the Passes, even though I really didn't see Pepper Potts talking to other women about anything but Tony's Behavior, or being in trouble.

If that had been included as a failure, how would the stats have turned out differently? Furthermore, would the story have been better if it had truly passed with flying colors, or was it the Top Grossing film because it was fucking AMAZING as it was?

Irridium:
Awesome. Hopefully this means a more movies where women are portrayed as people with interests other than men.

As opposed to what? Romantic Comedies that portray men as doing nothing but fighting over women? You can claim sexism all you want, but look at a majority of Romantic Comedies, what is the story? Two men fighting over one woman, two women fighting over one man, or something similar. So, because there is less than two women in a movie, it is automatically sexist, when she is a lead character (like Pacific Rim) or not an object of lust (like Commando where Arnold rescues his daughter with the help of a strong woman who falls in love with him, but isn't a sex object)? There is more sexism in Romantic Comedies than 80s style Action Movies.

MatsVS:
The Bechdel test is extremely useful to demonstrate the actual quantifiable differences between the genders in films to even the densest of observers. Great to see that modern audiences are finally catching up to what relevant critics have been saying for years.

Except it is a very lazy shorthand, easy to apply, smug, and ignores the multitude of nuance inherent in the debate about gender politics. A test for sexism that allows lesbian porn to pass and a nuanced story about, I don't know, Flora Sandes or John Barry to fail is quite clearly inherently flawed.

martyrdrebel27:
Btw, as a point of reference, any girl on girl porn featuring two large breasted bimbo types in schoolgirl outfits passes this test, therefore NOT SEXIST!

No, it would probably pass the test.

The test is, of course, not about whether a given movie is sexist or not.

Spade Lead:

An Ceannaire:
The thing is, what is the relevance of posting these stats? No Hollywood producer is going to so naive as to believe CERTAIN movies were successful simply because they had two female characters who talked to each other for a certain amount of time on something other than the topic of a man.

Have we reached a point where we stop judging a film based on it's cinematic merits and moreso on whether it has a completely equal, Captain Planet-esque cast? Because that's also starting to creep into video games.

I think that people see a correlation and causation in something that isn't there. Iron Man 3 was lumped in with the Passes, even though I really didn't see Pepper Potts talking to other women about anything but Tony's Behavior, or being in trouble.

If that had been included as a failure, how would the stats have turned out differently? Furthermore, would the story have been better if it had truly passed with flying colors, or was it the Top Grossing film because it was fucking AMAZING as it was?

Irridium:
Awesome. Hopefully this means a more movies where women are portrayed as people with interests other than men.

As opposed to what? Romantic Comedies that portray men as doing nothing but fighting over women? You can claim sexism all you want, but look at a majority of Romantic Comedies, what is the story? Two men fighting over one woman, two women fighting over one man, or something similar. So, because there is less than two women in a movie, it is automatically sexist, when she is a lead character (like Pacific Rim) or not an object of lust (like Commando where Arnold rescues his daughter with the help of a strong woman who falls in love with him, but isn't a sex object)? There is more sexism in Romantic Comedies than 80s style Action Movies.

This isn't about causation, it's about disproving the old adage that we keep getting the same boring thing because it's what sells. We're told that we don't get interesting movies involving women because there's no money in it, like it's the audience's fault and not the producers. Shamus young put it far better than I ever could have almost two years ago. He was talking specifically about race at the time, but lack-of-diversity is lack-of-diversity.

The Bechdel Test was never supposed to be some scientific measurement of quality, and any argument trying to shoot it down on these grounds is utterly missing the point.

This is starting to worry me a bit. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but the idea of this test being taken more and more seriously is just a bit spooky.

It's great to try and include women more, but it should be done for the sake of story and character, not this arbitrary check list of things that make your movie less sexist. The best example is Desolation Of Smaug. The female elf, among a few other things in the movie, was completely unneeded. Everything she did could have been accomplished by Legolas instead. Her scenes were nice and she was a good actress, but she further bloated an already overlong movie.

If directors can find ways to make their films include more women, good on them. But they shouldn't feel like they have to conform to this test.

As for the money bit, there seems to be a complete lack of correlation in almost all cases of the Bechdel Test and things like enjoyment, box office, etc. I'd like to see how other years stack up to this one before we declare this test the ultimate guide to printing money.

Complete aside, but one other thing in the article irritated me a lot.
"Perhaps even more shocking is that every single director was male. We repeat: 50 movies, zero female directors. Maybe some more women behind the camera would be a good start, eh?"

Excuse me? They seem to be implying that this fact is somehow sexist. Who is supposed to be at fault here? Are viewers supposed to avoid movies unless they're directed by women? Maybe I'm reading too much into it. It just seems like a very very silly thing to bring up.

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