The Bechdel Test, and Other Media Representation Tests, Explained

In a latest part of Rick Morty choice The Simpsons, guest star Alison Bechdel describes her famous Bechdel exam for films: Do dual womanlike characters have during slightest one review that’s not about a man? Marge immediately brings adult Homer, inspiring Bechdel’s FAIL animation, shown here in accessible exploitable form:

Bechdel’s test, popularized in her comic Dykes to Watch Out For, was never dictated to unconditionally conclude a film as “feminist” or “sexist.” After all, “Baby Got Back” passes it. Bechdel invented a exam with her crony Liz Wallace to set a low bar that many Hollywood cinema still can’t clear. As her impression Mo puts it in a comic, “Last film we was means to see was Alien.”


Setting that low bar has many current uses, that is because it’s so popular. For one, as a A.V. Club’s Caroline Siede points out, it raises elementary recognition of a large gender inconsistency in media: Very few cinema would destroy a retreat Bechdel exam for men.

And it’s a clever magnitude of womanlike illustration opposite an industry. Multiple organizations keep a using Bechdel scorecard of underline films. One draft of over 7,000 films indicates illustration solemnly improving given a 70s:

The customary is used in attention income research (showing that flitting films outperform unwell ones) and in annual Oscar wrap-ups. It’s a basement of a ratings stamp in some Swedish theaters, and it’s one of many check-box criteria on screenplay database The Black List. But Bechdel’s isn’t a usually renouned exam for media’s description of women.

More Tests of Female Representation

Tumblr user Chaila invented a Mako Mori exam after observant that Pacific Rim fails a Bechdel Test notwithstanding a clever womanlike character, while Thor passes it. A film passes this exam if “1) one womanlike impression 2) gets her possess account arc 3) that is not about ancillary a man’s story.” The exam is some-more biased than Bechdel’s, though of march so is a emanate they both address.


Writer Roxane Gay due a six-part test: Is there a executive womanlike character, with ancillary womanlike characters, who doesn’t concede herself for adore or live generously for no explained reason? And during slightest half a time, is this impression a lady of color, transgender, and/or queer? Gay’s sixth indicate is a non-requirement: Female characters “shouldn’t have to live adult to an impractical feminist standard.” They can be flawed, so prolonged as they feel like genuine tellurian beings.

The satirical Sexy Lamp exam by comics author Kelly Sue DeConnick (co-creator of Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet) is a easiest to pass: If your womanlike impression could be transposed by a voluptuous flare but a tract descending apart, “YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.” Naturally, many cinema destroy it. Especially if, as Tumblr user shitifindon suggested, you’re authorised to hang a Post-It on a voluptuous lamp.

The Crystal Gems test, designed by censor Locuas and named after a animation heroes in Steven Universe, combines a 3 above tests, and adds a scale for each—because we merit to lift a standards. An instance of a tridimensional results:

The Ellen Willis exam requires a story (or cocktail song) to make clarity if a genders were flipped. (It’s meant, of course, to call out gender roles, not biological factors.)

Editor and fandom consultant Jenn Northington’s Tauriel exam usually asks that in a given work, during slightest one lady be good during what she does.

Other Media Tests

But hey, women are usually one of a beautifully far-reaching operation of people feeble represented in media! So there are tests for other marginalized groups as well. Some of a best:


The secular Bechdel exam has a same elementary manners as a Bechdel Test, practical to people of color: At slightest dual of them contingency have a review that’s not about a white person. (The local Bechdel exam relates a stricter version, to uncover that cinema and shows with Native American characters still mostly fail.)

Similarly, actor Dylan Marron’s YouTube array Every Single Word facilities brief compilations of any line delivered by people of tone in a given obvious film. Of a 34 compilations, usually 5 are longer than a minute.

The Deggans order (by TV censor Eric Deggans) requires a uncover that’s not about competition to embody during slightest dual non-white tellurian characters in a categorical cast.


The Morales rule, by actor Natalie Morales, asks that no one calls anybody Papi, dances to salsa music, or uses “gratuitious Spanish.”

The DuVernay test, due by film censor Manohla Dargis in respect of executive Ava DuVernay, is some-more abstract. A work passes it if “African Americans and other minorities have entirely realised lives rather than offer as view in white stories.”

GLAAD’s Vito Russo exam has 3 requirements: The film contingency enclose a lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender character. That impression contingency not be primarily tangible by their course or gender identity—they need to be as singular as true cis characters. And they contingency be vicious adequate to impact a plot—they can’t usually moment some jokes or “paint civic authenticity.”


The Topside exam for trans literature, combined by literary editors Riley MacLeod (now during Kotaku) and Tom Leger, asks that a book embody mixed trans characters who know any other, who speak to any other about something other than medical transition procedures. The idea is to set a aloft bar than, say, Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex, that use trans characters as a column for non-trans characters. (The couple includes some endorsed texts.)

For some-more media tests, like a Finkbeiner exam for non-fiction and a Lauredhel exam for toys, check out this list on a Geek Feminism Wiki. Remember, no one exam can reinstate a qualitative hearing of a film. Not all of them are even endorsed in earnest. But any exam opens adult vicious discussion, hurdles and inspires creators, and provides another apparatus for measuring a industry.

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Posted by on Oct 10 2017. Filed under Gadgets. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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