The Bechdel Test is a fantastically simple way of opening your eyes to how patriarchal Hollywood still is. A film passes the Bechdel test if it has:
- At least two women, who
- Talk to each other
- About something other than a man
It sounds like a laughably out of date set of criteria for judging how progressive a film is in its portrayal of women, but then you actually try to sit down and work out how many films in your collection actually pass it.
Dr. Strangelove? There's only one woman in the whole film, who's in it for a mere three minutes, wearing a bikini the entire time. Star Wars? The two women in the film never meet each other. Monsters, Inc.? Nope. Jurassic Park? Avatar? Maybe just barely, depending on how lenient you are with the rules.
The test was invented by Liz Wallace, and rose to minor fame way back in 1985, when it featured in her friend Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, in a strip entitled The Rule.
For a brief yet insightful exploration of why Hollywood's still so far behind with women's dialogue, see Jennifer Kesler's blog entry Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test, over at The Hathor Legacy.