Learned of the existence of the Bechdel test
a few days ago. Pretty interesting -- as people are careful to point out, flawed
, but nonetheless valuable. It suggests the existence of biases in aggregate, rather than being a definite litmus test for whether a work is biased against women or not.
The test itself is simple. As the Wikipedia has it:
- It has to have at least two women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man.
I, of course, since I don't watch much other than anime, immediately started wondering whether my favorite series would pass. Almost universally, the answer was "yes." Surprising, considering that anime isn't exactly a bastion of feminism. But Madoka
passes (practically all the characters are female, possibly including QB.) Evangelion
definitely passes, even before the most recent series. Utena
passes with bells on.
More interesting are the works I like that don't pass. Shadow of the Colossus
doesn't. It wouldn't pass even if the roles were flipped. Mono would then be talking to Dormin about Wander, thus failing on point 3. In literature, I'm pretty sure most of Gene Wolfe's work doesn't pass. In this case I think the test works well -- one of his major weaknesses is his basic inability to write female characters. It annoys me, but that's not why I read Wolfe. Triplets of Belleville
doesn't pass because it has no dialogue.
And for me, that leads to the further observation that I would never have thought to make dialogue the crux of the test -- to me it's an optional feature. (And you might say, as a guy, I could be expected to think that.) But for exactly that reason, I think, the test is valuable. It uses a proxy for character importance that people will tend to overlook if they have unexamined biases.