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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

The word “Bechdel Test” has been thrown around for many years by movie enjoyers. I feel everyone has heard it at least once in their lifetime in passing or when people are discussing representation. But my question is, who actually came up with the Bechdel Test? I did some digging out of curiosity and the things I learned were actually super interesting! It deserves to be shared as a lot of people might not know this!

What is the Bechdel Test? 

Okay before we get to the meat of what I want to talk about, it’s important to understand what the Bechdel Test actually is. The Bechdel Test is a metric to test representation of women in movies with three specific criteria: 

  1. The movie has to have two women in it. 
  2. Those two women have to talk to each other
  3. Their conversation has to be about something OTHER than a man 

Simple enough, right? All movies should be able to satisfy those three rules… RIGHT? Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Many movies often fail to meet this extremely simple criteria! For example two movies that fail the Bechdel test include The Avengers (2012) and Ratatouille (2007). Both movies only pass one of the metrics, which is having at least two women. You’re probably surprised like I was when I realized how many movies don’t meet these three rules I listed out. 

The Comic Strip that started it all 

Now that we got that out of the way, we’re getting to what you came here for — the origins of the Bechdel Test. It’s actually quite fascinating, too! The Bechdel test was created by a comicstrip writer named Alison Bechdel. As a lesbian in 1985, things were not easy for her. She used art as an outlet for her frustrations and commentary on society. She ran a comic strip from 1983 to 2008 called DTWOF. Alison wrote a comic strip called The Rule back in ‘85. This comic strip contains the very first appearance of the use of the Bechdel Test. You can read the comic here on the Literary Hub

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Pretty cool, right? Alison Bechdel is really awesome and creative. She even has other comics from her strip that she archived from her website. It’s worth checking out! 

However, Alison wants the world to know that it wasn’t entirely her idea and credits her friend Liz Wallace. She states in a 2015 Fresh Air interview that, “I have to confess, I stole this whole thing from a friend of mine at the time because I didn’t have an idea for my strip. My friend Liz Wallace … said, “I’ll only see a movie if it has at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man.” That left very, very few movies in 1985. The only movie my friend could go see was Alien, because the two women talk to each other about the monster.” 

What The Bechdel Test Says About Movie Representation

In my opinion, while the Bechdel Test is interesting, it shouldn’t entirely be used as an all around encompassing metric for representation. It has very broad criteria and some really good diverse movies don’t pass the test. For example, Moonlight (2016) doesn’t pass the Bechdel test! The Bechdel test fails to be intersectional in that way and that’s important to keep in mind. 

Despite that, The Bechdel Test does provide vital commentary on how far the movie industry has to go. Women’s representation is still so few and far between. Alison Bechdel states that the comic originally was, “just a little lesbian joke in an alternative feminist newspaper,” in the San Diego City Beat. However, it’s become so much more than that. Alison states in the same interview, “Now it’s something people are discussing in mainstream culture. So, to me, that seems like huge progress.” It’s opened up some vital conversations we need to have. Women’s representation matters and one day we’ll finally get there. 

Sithmi Rajaguru is currently a sophomore English major at Virginia Commonwealth University. She's a first-generation Sri Lankan-American college student. Her biggest hobby is doll collecting, specifically Bratz and Monster High dolls! Her favorite color is pink and she loves to write fun articles! She also loves to watch nostalgic TV shows (mostly kids' shows) such as Miraculous Ladybug, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Winx Club, etc. She plays video games such as the Sims 4, Persona 5, etc. in her downtime. <3