Bechdel Test in 2017: Why movies still fail the test?

Until very recently movies have majorly glorified men (surprise surprise). However, recently we have seen a plethora of female-centric and feminist movies where females have been portrayed beyond the object of sexual gratification. Having said that there still is a huge room for improvement, as most of there otherwise progressive movies fail something called the “Bechdel test”.

What is Bechdel Test?

Bechdel test has been a household name since 2010. According to Wikipedia: “Also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test,[2] the test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For it first appeared in 1985. Simply put the rules are:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

When I discussed Bechdel test with my husband, he thought this should be pretty simple to meet. After all, the women he met in real life (especially his woman) talk to each other a lot and about everything under the sun! They talk travel, music, movies, kids, books, fashion, dream, weather, jobs, food, so on and so forth, definitely not just the men in their lives. Reality check – over 50% of popular movies fail the Bechdel test!

Also read: Are we finally accepting Bollywood Heroines in lead roles?

Bollywood has always been called out for portraying women only in relation to men. In recent years, we have seen a spate of female-led movies like Dangal, Piku, Queen, Simran, English Vinglish. Even some of these movies fail the Bechdel test, though.

Imagine, movies that depict our life and society, do not have two women conversing about anything other than men!  On a side note, even Hollywood fares miserably in this regard.

Pass or fail?

The 2017 blockbuster movies Raees, Kaabil, Jab Harry Met Sejal: all fail the Bechdel test, while Badrinath ki Dulhania barely manages to pass.

In Hollywood the following blockbusters pass the test: Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, but Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok fails it.

Is Bechdel a proper test for feminism?

However as noticed, many movies fail the test because there was simply no scope for a female-female conversation in the movie. (For example Gravity).

Also, many movies pass the test by barely a passing comment or something very insignificant. Many female-centric movies fail the test just because it portrays a certain period or a certain situation.

But despite its limitations, the apparent simplicity of Bechdel’s criteria and its failure in 21st-century movies is something we must open our eyes to.



Moumita Chakraborty

Moumita is gritty and persevering, besides being a subject matter expert on anything she sets her heart to. Her writing style pins on her empathy for the subject and fluidity of thought. She is great with people, which makes her a fabulous feature author and a Partner Relations expert.

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