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Lena Waithe, Kimberly Peirce, and More Women Introduce 12 New Bechdel Tests to Measure Gender Imbalance

New versions of the the Bechdel Test factor in the number of female crew members, the role of women of color, and more on any given film or TV series.

"Big Little Lies"

“Big Little Lies”


In order for a film or television episode to pass the Bechdel Test, it has to have at least two named female characters and those two characters have to have at least one conversation that is not about a man. It’s a relatively simple test that a majority of films and television series still aren’t passing in 2018. But what if passing the Bechdel Test required more than just these two requirements?

FiveThirtyEight recently asked 12 women to come up with new gender imbalance tests, including actress and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, filmmaker Kimberly Peirce, cinematographer Jen White, and actress Naomi Ko. The new tests demand more gender equality from film and television, both in front the camera and behind the scenes.

In order to pass the Waithe Test, for instance, a movie or show must feature a black woman who’s in a position of power and is in a healthy relationship with her partner. Only five of the top 50 films of 2016 pass the Waithe Test: “Bad Moms,” “Central Intelligence,” “Hidden Figures,” “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

The Peirce Test has three requirements: There’s a female character who is a protagonist or antagonist with her own story; The female lead has dimension and exists authentically with needs and desires that she pursues through dramatic action; And the audience can empathize with or understand the female lead’s desires and actions. Forty of the top 50 films of 2016 pass the test, including “Arrival,” “Rogue One,” “Trolls,” and “Star Trek Beyond.”

To pass the Ko Test, the film or series must include a none-white, female-identifying person who speaks English in at least five scenes. Twenty-one of the top 50 films of 2016 passed this test.

Three of the 12 tests had zero of the top 50 films of 2016 pass them: The Uphold Test (The on-set crew is 50 percent women), the White Test (half of the department heads are women, half the members of each department are women, and half the crew members are women), and the Villalobos Test (the film has a Latina lead and the lead or another Latina character is shown as professional or college educated, speaks in unaccented English, and is not sexualized).

For all 12 of the new Bechdel Tests, head over to FiveThirtyEight.

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