To Bechdel and Beyond —

FEMINIST MOVIE TESTS

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
By Margo Page

The Bechdel Test was never meant to be a test of whether a movie was feminist.  It was meant to point out how many movies fail an extremely basic indicator of feminism.  The Bechdel Test tests just one aspect of feminism in movies and it does so with the lowest bar possible.  The Mako Mori Test was created as another low-bar/minimalist test of feminism.

There are many aspects of a movie which determine how feminist it is.  What if we had ten pass/fail tests, and we could see how many and which tests a movie passed?  What if people creating the movie went through this checklist while writing the movie to see how the movie measured up?  Of course a movie could be very feminist and not pass all of the tests, because there are always exceptions.  However, ten objective criteria would be a good basic check point.  There are foreseeable practical problems with these in particular, since it was just what I came up with right now, but if people really cared, they could be worked out into useable objective pass/fail criteria.  Then perhaps we could recognize what constitutes gender equality in a movie and work towards it.  Suggestions/ideas/comments are welcome.

1.  Bechdel Test:
At least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

2.  Mako Mori Test:
a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

3.  Stereotypes Tests
Stereotypes are not used (i.e. a woman making a horrible mistake in math or navigation).

4. Derogatory Terms Test
Male gender based derogatory terms are used equally as female gender based derogatory terms, and are made in reference to male and female characters equally (i.e. “bitch” is used once, and “dick” is used once; “whore” is used once in reference to a man, and once in reference to a female).

5. Age Test
Average age of the male actors is within 5 years of the average age of the female actors.

6. Casting Based On Looks Test
Average number of male actors’ previous major roles is within 5 of the average number of female actors’ previous major roles.

7. Sexualization Test
An equal amount of on-screen time is given to men as it is to women.  Male and females actors are dressed, shot and presented sexually in equal frequency (i.e. impractical hairstyles and clothing items such as keyhole and revealing outfits, heels, primped hair, seductive posturing, and filming that if the sound were cut out is suggestive of porn, or is shot solely to display the actor/actress).

8. Romantic Involvement Test
There are an equal number of female and male actors whose actual or potential sexual, romantic involvements/interests are not shown, mentioned or alluded to.

9. Decision-Making Test
The decisions made by the female and male actors are equal in frequency and gravity (minor and major decisions).

10. Lines Test
Equal number of speaking lines are given to male and female characters.

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6 comments

    1. Films that expose inequality with main characters who overcome stereotypes, and prejudices need casts and scripts that are not in a “proportional representation,” in order to closely recreate beliefs, actions, and environments that lead to discrimination. Fictional romantic films that take place in the settings of workplaces are easier to include equality in speaking parts between men and women, because people expect equality in workplaces.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If 8-10 were met, I think it would naturally follow that there would be approximately an equal number of men and women characters. If however there were, say, 3 males and 1 female, but the female made an equal amount and weight of decisions and lines as the men, I think it would most likely feel balanced despite the number of male and female actors being different.

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