Back in the 80’s when I was in college, I ran across a cartoonist named Alison Bechdel. Since I am also an Allison and there aren’t so very many famous people who share my name, I picked up some of her work. The name of her strip was Dykes to Watch Out For so even though I enjoyed a lot of it, well, I’m not a lesbian so parts of it went right over my head and I lost track of her.
Turns out, Ms Bechdel made some observations about how women appear in movies. She and some friends devised a short test for determining which movies presented the most well-rounded female characters. And it’s quite short, just 3 questions:
1. Does the movie have at least 2 female characters?
2. Do they have an actual conversation with each other?
3. Do they talk about something other than a man who interests both of them?
So, for example, The Fifth Element has several strong female characters, Leelu Dallas and the Diva. However they don’t talk to each other so the movie fails the test. Star Wars has only one consistent female character, so that fails too.
Pitch Perfect is about a group of female college students who enter an a capella singing competition. The team, named the “Barden Bellas” is composed of something like 8 women (question 1), they have conversations with each other throughout the movie (question 2) and they don’t share a love interest so there is very little discussion of men (question 3). So this movie passes the test. And I enjoyed it very much.
Of course it isn’t a sci-fi movie so I continue looking for something that includes ALL my entertainment preferences, but then sci-fi is generally a boys game so that’s no surprise.
Maybe one day I’ll get around to scripting the movie I want to see . . .
In any case, Ms Bechdel has managed to create a simple guideline for thinking about the way women are presented in movies, and I appreciate it.