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Weekend Recs: The Bechdel Test

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Happy Friday and Happy Women’s History Month, Wildcats! Over the past century, Hollywood has earned some well-warranted criticisms for its portrayals of women (among a host of other minority groups with lackluster representations, to put it incredibly lightly). While some films are outright sexist and misogynistic, others, whether intentional or not, center women’s stories around male characters and story arcs.

The Bechdel test, named after comic artist and writer Alison Bechdel, is a way to assess movies, on a pass-fail basis, for their bare-minimum portrayal of women. Passing the Bechdel test only has 3 rules: the film must feature (1) two named female characters (2) that talk with each other (3) about anything other than a man/men. These exchanges between female characters do not have to be long (or even positive).

With such a low-bar, it would seem nearly impossible to not pass the Bechdel test, and yet, movies, new and old, still manage to fail. In celebration of Women’s History Month, this weekend’s recs dive into the Bechdel test and shares some of my personal favorite Bechdel-passing content.

If you have 12 seconds…and need some humor in your day, watch the TikTok poking fun at how easy passing the Bechdel test is.

If you have 1 minute and 30 seconds…and want a surprising list of stereotypical “film bro” movies that pass the test (and why they pass), watch this TikTok.

If you have 1 minute and 45 seconds…and want a first-hand look at how silly the test can sometimes get, especially when filmmakers are purposely adding in dialogue simply to pass the test, watch this Rick and Morty clip.

If you have 12 minutes…and don’t know much about the Bechdel test, read this Backstage article. This article gives the basic rundown of the Bechdel Test and its limitations (and even explains some similar tests to score your favorite films on).

If you have 16 minuteswatch this video essay on why the Bechdel Test isn’t solving sexism in film.

If you have 1 hour and 38 minutes…and need to decompress from midterms with a good laugh, go see 80 for Brady in theaters. The film is a surprisingly funny film about a group of four women in their 80s (composed of some of the most iconic women in Hollywood, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, and Lily Tomlin), who embark on a journey to get tickets to the Super Bowl. Although it features some pretty heavy Tom-Brady-centric conversations, at its core, it is a heartwarming narrative about female friendships and growing older.

If you have 1 hour and 54 minutes…and like campy, colorful action flicks, watch Gunpowder Milkshake. Featuring actresses such as Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett, Gunpowder Milkshake is a visually stunning, female-led film perfect for those who like ridiculous action.

Photo by cottonbro studio

Bonus: If you prefer more traditional action movies, watch Black Widow. Although it is an MCU film, Black Widow can act as a stand-alone film that centers the story of two sisters who set out to topple an empire of corrupt men in power.

If you have 2 hours and 5 minutes…and want to watch a biopic about one of the bravest women in American history, watch Harriet. A perfect bridge from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, as she was absolutely pivotal to both, this film follows Harriet Tubman’s fight for her freedom and the freedom of hundreds of other Black people in the South. Harriet boasts an amazing performance from Cynthia Erivo (and, as with every film she’s in, Janelle Monae) and beautiful cinematography.

Bonus: If historical action-dramas are your thing, watch The Woman King. Starring the astounding Viola Davis, this based-on-a-true-story film follows General Nanisca, leader of the Agojie, an all-female group of warriors in the West African kingdom of Dahomey.

If you have 2 hours and 8 minutes…and haven’t seen this absolute classic yet, watch A League of Their Own, available in Falvey’s DVD Collection. Set during World War II, this film follows a team of female baseball players as they set out to boost morale during the war through an American past time while combating sexism.

If you have 11 hours…and prefer books to movies (and love period pieces), read Little Women, available at Falvey. Written by Louisa May Alcott, this absolute coming-of-age classic follows the story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth, living during the Civil War. Although the novel contains its fair share of romance, at its heart, the story is of the March sisters and their (sometimes very chaotic) love for each other.

Bonus: If you haven’t already seen it, watch Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation, a film that centers complex (albeit white) female characters that feel real. (Plus, it features some outstanding women in Hollywood including Laura Dern, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen, Meryl Streep, and Emma Watson).

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library.




Last Modified: March 3, 2023

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