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Screenwriter John August Ponders the Bechdel Test

Screenwriter John August Ponders the Bechdel Test

I haven’t written anything before about the Bechdel test which in a nutshell is a way of determining if women matter in a film. The test was designed by cartoonist Alison Bechdel and it has become legendary.

Here are the criteria:

1. It has to have at least two women in it

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something besides a man

If a movie passes this test, to me, and lots of other people it is a movie I would potentially want to see. The test is not a test of greatness or even content, it’s just a determination of how women are valued in the script.

Screenwriter John August (Go, Titan AE, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) came across this new video that’s gone viral about how few films really pass the Bechdel Test and he looked at the films he has written and it gave him pause.

Here’s what he came up with:
Looking back through my movies, I’m struck by how rarely the female characters actually do talk to each other. In Big Fish, it’s only a brief moment with Sandra and Josephine. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it’s a throwaway moment between Violet and Veruca. Titan A.E. fails the test unless you know that the alien Stith is technically female.

In each of these cases, I had to spend a few minutes just to come up with these (admittedly slight) examples.

And he asks:

Does acknowledging the situation change anything? Maybe. I’ll certainly ask myself these questions about future scripts. For now, my upcoming projects all seem to pass, but they have a familiar paradigm: a single main female who mostly interacts with the men in the story.

Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step towards fixing it.

John August – Women in Film

Bechdel Test Movie List

Alison Bechdel

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