Video: The Bechdel Test for women in movies

The Bechdel Test or Mo Movie Measure (misnamed as it may be) is a simple formula that tests three simple things in a movie: a) if there are (named) female characters and b) that they talk to each other about c) something other than a man.

Most movies fail this by a mile, including the lions share of the Star Wars saga.

I believe The Phantom Menace (Shmi and Padme) and Attack of the Clones (Padme and Queen Jamillia, Padme and Beru) may be the only Star Wars movies that pass the Bechdel test… Though perhaps barely, Anakin being a topic (but not a romantic one) in all three conversations I’m thinking of. Thoughts?

10 Replies to “Video: The Bechdel Test for women in movies”

  1. To pass, doesn’t that require two female characters to talk to each other NOT about male characters? I think by that definition, Shim-Padme still fails (as they basically only talk about how awesome Little Mister Are You An Angel is.) However, I don’t remember it well, but do Padme and Jamilla mostly reference Anakin as “the guy who is making sure [Padme] doesn’t get bumped off?” That I think would pass.

    I don’t know about the first three, or at least it points out a big weakness in the ‘test’. Outside of the intentional flirting/romance of ESB, most of the time, Leia is talking to male characters, yes–but not in any romantic sense. In the first movie, in fact, the closest we get to romance is her sexy pose accompanied by sarcasm (“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”) and a kiss for luck that in retrospect is ick. She backtalks Tarkin and Vader (who obviously do not see her as “silly girl” but as “serious political problem”.) She takes over her own rescue. In ESB ee see her talking with General Riekeean about strategy, we see her briefing Rogue Squadron, Han has to drag her out of the command center because she’s busy directing the evacuation…in ROTJ, she once again takes over the situation with the biker scouts, is the only one of the party who meets the Ewoks who does NOT end up on the menu, she holds her own just fine in the ground battle….

  2. I haven’t really watched TPM or AOTC recently, and never with this in mind, so I’m not 100% on the conversations. Don’t Padme and Beru talk about Tatooine, though?

    I don’t think anyone can deny that Leia isn’t a strong character who has more to do than just be The Girlfriend, but is rather disheartening that there are only three speaking female characters in the entire OT, period.

  3. Sy Snootles doesn’t count as a speaking part? Her agent is gonna be pissed.

    Revenge of the Sith has some cut scenes with Mon Mothma and Padme (and others) discussing politics, so that’s… um… something.

  4. Actually, Shmi and Padme talk about there still being slavery in the Outer Rim. And by talk, they each exchange a line of dialogue.

  5. For the record, Jamillla and Padme were not just discussing Anakin in any context, they were talking about the Military Creation Act. As someone who’s never been impressed by Carrie Fisher’s character and always thought that Leia Organa was the most over-rated SFM in Sci-Fi, I’m not surprised that the OT fails the Bechdel test so woefully. What is more surprising is that this is just coming to people’s notice.

  6. Dunc: maybe only 3 human female characters in the OT with dialogue (Leia, Beru, Mon Mothma). Oola has some lines in Huttese before she becomes a snack.

    wait.. you forgot another human female with lines: Echo Base’s Toryn Farr: Stand by, Ion Control!

  7. And I gotta add that the Clone Wars series makes up for this imbalance time and again, and will continue to do so. Like it or not, episodes like Cloak of Deception, Jedi Crash, and Weapons Factory will go a long way to ensuring the next generation of SW fans will have some strong female characters to admire and aspire to.

  8. TCW hadn’t even occurred to me, though TV generally seems better at having multiple major/important female characters.

    (Except maybe Supernatural.)

  9. I think Leia is a strong, incredible character who happens to be leading an entire rebel army to fight against galactic injustice. To have some hyperzealous overactivists dismiss her because she didn’t talk to another female is simply feminist vanity.

  10. Thanks for taking the time to mansplain that to us. ::eye roll::

    Failing the Bechdel Test isn’t the be-all and end-all of anything. Failing doesn’t make the OT suck, and passing doesn’t make AOTC any better. The point is that this is EPIDEMIC in Hollywood movies, and maybe it’s something folks should be aware of.

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