Originally conceived in 1985 by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel and friend Liz Wallace in the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," the Bechdel test has taken on a life of its own.
It asks of a movie, "Are there at least two female characters? Do they speak to each other? Do they speak to each other about something other than a man?"
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then congratulations! Your movie passes an extremely basic test and is maybe not too shabby when it comes to gender representation.
The Bechdel test has gained a great deal of steam — in Sweden, cinemas have begun to incorporate it into their film ratings system.
In Sweden, passing the test will earn an "A" rating. Unfortunately, despite the very — very — low bar the test presents, maybe half of all Hollywood films would earn that grade.
However, that may change: last year, films that passed the test made billions more in the box office than those that did not.
Maybe this will make filmmakers pay heed to the fact that women comprise half the population and deserve films that accurately portray this. More likely, it will draw their attention to the fact that women, too, have wallets with money inside.
But let's be honest. Using the Bechdel test as a metric is a bit unsubstantial. We could call it a safe kiddie pool for filmmakers before they have to set foot into the vast ocean of scary things like "diversity," "equal representation" and "basic decency."
First of all, even when a movie passes the test, it can still have misogynist themes or undertones. Take "Mean Girls," for example. It passes the test, sure, but I'd be hard-pressed to say it does anything in the way of female empowerment.
In movies starring women, the heroine's journey is often centralized around the pursuit of a man. When a man stars, his romantic interest is usually an afterthought, a reward for after he completes his own self-actualizing task. Works that adhere to these tropes can pass the Bechdel test, even with their problematic messages.
Additionally, the Bechdel test doesn't address other issues of representation that should be taken into account. What about people of color, the disabled or members of the LGBTQ community?
I know, I know. It seems ridiculous that the people of these marginalized groups have the nerve to desire proper positive representation of themselves in films. What a raging world of political correctness we live in.
The film world needs to radically change if it is to remain culturally relevant, and if there's a exam to be taken, the standard needs to be something far greater than the Bechdel test.
I, for one, am tired of disposable tokens, stereotypical misrepresentations and white guys being the default hero of almost every movie ever made.
What we see on the big screen is a reflection of our society. Right now, what I'm seeing is a society that only values one type of person as one who is capable of having an interesting, relatable story. Can we change that, please?
BRB; making a Richardson test.
Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at email@example.com.