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Lights, Camera, Feminism: 2017 Films That Pass the ‘Bechdel Test’

Lights! Camera! Action!

In film, women often tend to be secondary characters and do not have as big of a role as men do. The “Bechdel Test” attempts to challenge this by determining how active women are in the movies; this reveals which films truly prioritize and center-focus women. In order to pass the Bechdel Test, a movie must have at least two female characters, with given names, who speak to one another about a topic other than men.

Numerous 2017 films pass the Bechdel Test. Now, let’s get those cameras rolling! Come follow me along this cinematic journey:

Beauty and the Beast

This 2017 reproduction of the 1991 film is a live-action remake of the original Disney fairytale. It passes the Bechdel Test, as Belle is the main character of the film, who goes above and beyond to save her friends and her new love, the Beast. Belle has several conversations with one specific piece of furniture, Madame de Garderobe, who is a human woman under a curse. Bell and Madame de Garderobe discuss numerous topics such as her refusal to become a princess.

Wonder Woman

This film is all about women’s empowerment. It begins with showing an entire civilization made up of women. While the women do have some conversations discussing their creators, who ironically are male gods, there is minimal contact with the opposite sex. The introduction of Steve Trevor, an intelligence operative who is stranded on Wonder Woman’s homeland, is revolutionary. The main character, Diana, played by Gal Gadot, as well as the rest of the civilization, or the Amazons, do interact with Steve Trevor. However, the filmmaker chose to put an emphasis on the women and their close bonds in the film. For example, when Diana follows Steve out of the hidden island, she forms a strong bond with Steve’s secretary, another woman. Most of their conversations focus on fashion and warrior ladies.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The filmmaker, Rian Johnson, emphasizes women in every Star Wars film. In this specific Star Wars film, women fighters such as the engineer, Rose Tico, the pilot, Tallie Lintra, and Princess, now General, Leia Organa-Solo, are a huge part of the Resistance. Another empowered woman featured in The Last Jedi is Rey, one of the first female Jedi in the Star Wars films. One scene, in which all the women soldiers and warriors come together to discuss how they will tackle their latest military operation shows the women talking about anything but a man.

Despicable Me 3

This animated film is a perfect example of a movie that passes the Bechdel Test. The movie is based on the struggle of being a step-parent. It involves interactions between the stepmother, Lucy, and the three cute stepdaughters. The girls constantly discuss their dreams and imaginings about unicorns.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

This film shows the bond and friendship between two sisters, Nebula and Gamora. They have a complicated, yet close-knit relationship. While they often physically fight with one another, they are open and honest with one another and have several conversations in which they do not talk about men.

Just for comparison, here is a film that, deceptively, does not pass the Bechdel Test:

Thor: Ragnarok

Two main female characters, Valkyrie and Hela, play significant roles in the film. However, they never speak to each other or to any other women. Valkyrie keeps her distance from normal life, as she suffers a great loss when her group of all lady warriors were killed in destruction. This film is different from the other movies mentioned above, as there are very few women in the film and while the few female characters are crucial to the storyline, it is difficult to find women conversing with one another in the film.

Thanks for taking an inside look with me at the various movies that pass (and one that failed) this important test!

Noy Messinger

Muhlenberg '21

My name is Noy Messinger and I am a Sophomore double majoring in Media and Communications and History with a minor in dance. I am extremely passionate about dance. I have been dancing since I was two years old and was a participant in my high school’s performing arts dance program.  Additionally, I am passionate about history. I love learning about different cultures and discovering their pasts as well as information about my own heritage.  
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