The Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 Movie Edition

In her Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 TV Edition post, S reminds us of the what and why of The Test and digs into this year’s small screen offerings. My mission, which I heartily accepted, is to give you rabble-rousers a rundown of the Bechdel-Wallace* Test Approved films of 2015 (thus far; we still have the Awards Push season to scrutinize!)

Herein are the Gold Star Recipients of the Big Screen Bechdel-Wallace Test Passing Adeptly Awards:

Bessie
As the biopic of the great Bessie Smith (played brilliantly by the great Queen Latifah), there are the inevitable conversations between Bessie and Ma Rainey, Bessie and her sister Viola, and Bessie and her lover (represented in the film by the character Lucille, who is a composite of the women in Bessie’s life). These conversations address careers, lady love, ambition, family, talent, recovery from addiction, and motherhood, to name a few of the Not Men subjects.

Bonus points:

  • Also passes the racial Bechdel-Wallace Test
  • Directed by Dee Rees
  • Queen Latifah!

Mad Max: Fury Road
When you see this movie, it may seem like Imperator Furiosa is the only woman who is actually named. In fact the wives have names, too, they’re just weird, post-apocalyptic names. I’d have to watch a second time to be sure, but I believe each of them is even referred to by name at some point in the film: Toast the Knowing, The Splendid Angharad, Capable, The Dag, and Cheedo the Fragile. Some of the elder women also have names, such as The Valkyrie and Keeper of the Seeds.

There isn’t a lot of dialogue in Mad Max, but when these women do talk, they talk to each other and they talk about the green place, survival, hope, repairing the truck, planting seeds, life and death, conquering the Citadel, and so on.

Bonus points:

  • Great feminist discussions permeated pop culture because of this film. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the key players:
    • Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa)
      1. “I knew instantly from understanding the project that George had an innate understanding of what women represent to society and he wanted that to reflect in a post-apocalyptic world in the most truthful way possible. People keep saying ‘strong women’ but we are actually just women. We had a filmmaker that understood the truth of women is powerful enough and we don’t want to be put on pedestals or made to be unnaturally strong. What we are capable of doing is really interesting and informs a story like this.”
    • George Miller (director)
      1. “Initially, there wasn’t a feminist agenda,” Miller insisted. Instead, the movie was simply designed to be an extended chase, and “the thing that people were chasing was to be not an object, but the five wives. I needed a warrior. But it couldn’t be a man taking five wives from another man. That’s an entirely different story. So everything grew out of that.”
      2. “She (Margaret Sixel, Miller’s wife) had never cut an action movie, and she said, ‘Why on earth would you want me to cut the movie,’ and I said, ‘Because if it were the usual kind of guys, it would look like every other action movie you see,’ and she said, ‘My job here is to stop you from embarrassing yourself.’”
      3. “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.”

furiosa and gang

Magic Mike XXL
I can see many of you shaking your heads… What is Magic Mike doing on this list? My answer? Oof, so many things. 

Magic Mike XXL is a celebration of female sexuality. Yes, really! If you haven’t yet, watch it, and see for yourself. (Also, Channing Tatum, so, you’re welcome.) To pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, we have Rome naming all of her female customers who she sometimes engages in a (brief) tête–à–tête, and later we get the lovely allusions she shares with Paris regarding their shared past. Almost all of these interactions focus on women’s worth, pleasure, and agency. They cover sexuality, career, skill sets, viability, and the delightful idea that all women are Queens.

Bonus Points:

  • I get to post this gif

CT Dancing

Pitch Perfect 2
Becca, Chloe, Fat Amy, new girl Emily, and the rest of the Bellas, talk all things competition, talent, show routines, song selection, confidence, legacy, and sisterhood. PP2 wins all the things.

Bonus points:

  • Directed by Elizabeth Banks
  • Song and dance numbers
  • Becca’s aca-awkward interactions with the head of the German team

bellas camping

Trainwreck
I didn’t LOL at this movie as much as I thought I would, but it was a refreshing spin on the rom-com and easily passes The Test. Amy talks with her boss Dianne about work, getting a promotion, story ideas (gray area here as they work at a men’s magazine), and her sister Kim about their family and Kim’s family and their sex lives and their childhood and so on. Also LeBron James as himself is amazing.

Bonus Points:

  • Challenges stereotypes faced by men and women by flipping the gender norms about sex and relationships on their ass
  • Song and dance number (you’ll see)

AS Wine

The DUFF
Bianca, Jess and Casey, being best friends, talk about plenty of things other than guys. They discuss homework assignments, their friendship, their gifts and flaws, fashion, homecoming, parties (even Queen B Madison gets in on that conversation), and they have a pretty hilarious fight involving social media. Basically they’re actual representations of teenage girls, so The Duff passes with flying colors.

Bonus points:

  • Bianca also has some interesting chats with her mom, Dottie (Alison Janney always wins)
  • Two of the friends ditch their dates for their bestie in need <<— Realness

duff

Here are a few other 2015 movies that pass The Test and are still on my To See list:
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Inside Out
Spy

And one that I will probably never see, but if you don’t mind Mush Mouth Lively, then I hear this one passes admirably:
The Age of Adaline

As a small bonus, here are some 2014 films that pass The Test, which we never got around to writing about, because in 2014 I had a baby and S was busy being really there for me.

  • The Book of Life
  • Birdman
  • Dear White People
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Lego Movie
  • Mockingjay Part 1
  • Maleficent
  • Obvious Child
  • The Other Woman
  • Selma

On a final note, a movie does not have to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test in order to be considered good. The Test is designed as an (absurdly low) barometer for measuring representations of women in film and television. There are so many movies and TV shows (so many) that fail The Test, it would be wildly inaccurate to require passing The Test as a measure of quality. For example, This is Where I Leave You failed, and it’s a great movie.

The point of The Test is to remind us that when it comes to portrayals of women on screen, we can do so so so much better. We have a lot to celebrate when quality films pass, and the abundance of quality films that don’t pass reminds us that we still have quite a lot of work to do. #wegotthis

bellas boom

*Alison Bechdel would like all of us to start giving credit to her friend Liz Wallace, who laid out these rules in a conversation with Bechdel, prompting her to include them in her comic ‘Dykes to Watch Out For.’ We’re all about credit where it’s due, so Beauty Coup will henceforth refer to it as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 TV Edition

When we last checked in on how the ol’ TV box is stacking up with regards to the Bechdel-Wallace* Test, it was 2013. Best Friends Forever and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23 had been tragically cancelled, but New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and just plain Girls were all going strong.

To review, the “Bechdel-Wallace Test” was featured in Alison Bechdel’s 1985 comic strip, The Rule, in which Bechdel includes a handy tool for measuring the significance of female characters in movies. You’d think that passing said test would be easy! The movie “passes” if it…

(1) Contains at least two women

(2) who speak to each other

(3) about something other than a man.

As you’ve probably noticed, women in real life talk about lots of things, but on-screen women seem to have much less to say.  Let’s see how some of our favorite 2015 TV shows are measuring up.

 True Detective: Season Two / HBO

Porn?!

The first season of True Detective failed the Bechdel-Wallace Test so miserably I almost couldn’t believe it. Great show– but the characterization of women was weak, y’all. The only “women” on Season 1 of True Detective were Wives, Mistresses, Prostitutes, and Dead Prostitutes.

By way of a rather obvious apology, Season two offers us the character of Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides, portrayed by Rachel McAdam’s deeply furrowed brow. Ani is a lady cop with sick knife skills and a flagrant disregard of her workplace’s sexual conduct policy.

We’re treated to many scenes of Ani interacting with other humans, several of which were other women (ding ding ding!). Pictured above, Ani slut-shames her sister for her job as a webcam girl. Pass! (Barely)

Game of Thrones: Season Four / HBO

Brienne-and-Sansa

Much has been written about the depiction and treatment of women in HBO’S adaption of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Even more has been written by so-called “book snobs” who have boycotted the series rather than watch our beloved story lines butchered and maimed each Sunday night.

I could say a lot of things about the scene in this photo, like for example, how it doesn’t make any sense that Brienne of Tarth would do something so dangerous/idiotic as to declare her loyalty to a wanted criminal in a crowded inn, thereby blowing said wanted criminal’s cover even as she is offering her protection–or how Sansa Stark is for some reason engaging with her in this conversation (at full volume) like “Hey, you’re right, I AM Sansa Stark! Yes, of the Winterfell Starks. Yes, THE Sansa Stark, who is wanted for regicide! More beer, please, bar keep? The heir of Winterfell is in the house!”

I’m not here to discuss that. This conversation passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test. (But it does not pass the test of logic!) Pass. (of the Bechdel-Wallace Test.)

Orange is the New Black: Season 3 / Netflix

OitnB

Over at Netflix: Pass! So much pass! Orange is the New Black is like a master class in passing the Bechdel-Wallace test, and it’s still going strong in its third season.

Netflix gets extra credit for this show. Not only do its many female characters (!) talk to each other (!) about things other than men (!!), its plot is almost exclusively driven by dynamic, complicated female relationships. Netflix crushed it with this one, and THEN they proved that they don’t even have to keep women locked up to do it:

 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 / Netflix

Mole Women

Yes, even when the Mole Women were freed from the bunker, they continued to talk to each other, and other women, too. Oh, what I would give to time travel back to March, 2015 when I watched the entirety of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in a single Sunday. There are so many wonderful topics of conversation between the women of this show, such as:

  1. The Apocalypse (and how it was caused by our dumbness)
  2. Coping mechanisms for a stressful life in New York City (or underground, where you are being held against your will by Jon Ham)
  3. Rats in the air filter, what could it mean?

Jane The Virgin: Season one / The CW

Jane

Wow, this list is getting pretty long. That’s dope.

Jane the Virgin made me so happy, and not just because it allowed me look at Miami in the winter time. Jane’s innermost thoughts reminded me a little bit of My So-Called life (RIP), albeit this time they were conveyed by a telenovela style narrator. The inner lives of a women depicted on television?! Yes, please.

The heart of Jane the Virgin is the relationship between Jane and her glamorous mother, Xo. Jane and Xo frequently hash it out in this adorable drama-dy, passing the Bechdel-Wallace Test easily (and stylishly) every time. Pass. Extra points for social commentary! #immigrationreform

 Another Period: Season 1 / Comedy Central

AnotherPeriod

This list goes on! Imagine my delight when two of my favorite comediennes successfully combined two of my favorite TV genres: period pieces and reality TV. Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome (creators and co-executive producers) star as Lillian and Beatrice, two wealthy Rhode Island socialites, in this spoofy take on the “wealthy family” reality TV trope. They start strong with the pilot, which features a full-on, hair-pulling brawl with Helen Keller, fueled by “cocaine wine”. So yeah. PASS! 

Extra points for Cristina Hendricks as a “plain” servant girl. Hilarious.

 Difficult People: Season one / Hulu

Difficult People

As I have said here on the blog before, Julie Klausner is my Oprah. What I mean by that is that I begin a lot of sentences with “Well, Julie says [insert nugget of wisdom here].” I’ve read every book and watched every movie she ever mentioned on her podcast, How was Your Week, and now, this! Her very own show on Hulu, co-written by the very funny Billy Eichner and produced by none other than Amy Poehler!

The central relationship in the show is of course between Billy and Julie, but Julie’s mother Marilyn and Billy’s boss, Denise, supply plenty of the Bechdel-friendly funny, also. Pass, of course.

GIRLS: Season four / HBO

GIRLS

My favorite interaction on this season of HBO’s Girls was the one where Marnie was fishing for compliments on her truly god-awful music. “Well, you did it. You made a song.” #JessaBurn. PASS.

Broad City: Season 2 / Comedy Central 

BroadCity

Let’s end this thing on a high note: with these classy broads. What can be said about Abbi and Ilana that hasn’t already been said? Remember when this show came out and people were all like “Wow, Broad City AND Girls? That’s too many shows about girls, let’s just pick one.” Well, beauties, we all knew it was baloney, and just look who’s talking now! (Still us– and we’re talking about all kinds of shit.) PASS.

IN SUMMATION:

I’m loving this. It’s been a great year, guys! That’s basically all of the TV I’ve watched in 2015, and there’s plenty more out there that passes the test. Please share them in the comments. The next question we should be asking is: if it doesn’t pass the test, why is it on TV at all? Who’s watching it? If it’s us, let’s stop. Let’s not stand for it.

Next up: E tackles the silver screen. How are women’s words stacking up in film?

xo

-S

*Alison Bechdel would like all of us to start giving credit to her friend Liz Wallace, who laid out these rules in a conversation with Bechdel, prompting her to include them in her comic ‘Dykes to Watch Out For.’ We’re all about credit where it’s due, so Beauty Coup will henceforth refer to it as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

Bechdel Test: TV Edition

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and Ms. E took the opportunity to check in with Hollywood to see how this year’s films fared when put to the Bechdel Test, a meter by which to measure the significance of female characters in movies. The Bechdel Test was popularized by Alison Bechdel’s 1985 comic strip, The Rule. You’d think that passing the test would be easy. The movie simply must:

(1) Contain at least two women

(2) who speak to each other

(3) about something other than a man.

But…apparently that’s a lot to ask! E presented us with a list of fine films that passed the test in 2012, but how did women in television do last year?

We may not be able to say that women were having a fantastic year, but girls certainly were. That includes girls who are clearly in her thirties, like Jess, from New Girl.

New Girl

New-Girl-JessThis show was not great at first, Bechdel test-wise. Even while featuring a female as the central character, this show’s premise leans very heavily on the Smurfette Principle, as Jess is the lone gal in a group of guys. In the pilot, she moves in with three male roommates because she is tired of living with her best friend, Cece, who is a model. Because, I guess, they can’t keep good snacks in the house? It’s a little flimsy. So what about the test? The show really improved its score in 2012, due to its shift away from the original gag (check out this one ‘weird’ girl and the dudes that put up with her!), making it more of an ensemble piece, with a much higher frequency of Cece appearances. (Cece is also a woman of color…bonus!)

tumblr_misky4KxGn1rp6xpao3_250 tumblr_misky4KxGn1rp6xpao8_250 tumblr_misky4KxGn1rp6xpao7_250Sometimes Jess and Cece are talking about men, usually one of the dudes in the loft, but they also have other meaningful interactions that move the plot forward and explore their relationship. Notably, in the episode “Models”, in which Jess slights Cece by implying that she doesn’t have a “real” job, and later discovers that, in fact, modelin’ ain’t easy.

2 Broke Girls

2080421This show has passed the test since the pilot. The two main characters, Max and Caroline, frequently discuss money, not having money, how to make money, and whether or not to open a cupcake shop. Pass!

Girls

hbo-GIRLS

The girls from Girls just wanna have fun! And talk about:

1. Paying/Not paying the rent

2. Who is a good friend and who is a bad friend

2. Accidentally smoking crack

3. HPV

4. Nebulous dreams

Pass!

MOVING ON TO THE WOMEN! How’d they do?

(RIP) Don’t Trust the B—- in APT 23

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June is your classic wholesome, mid-western type who moves to New York City for a job on Wall Street, only to the find the office is being raided by the feds on her first day. Her dreams dashed, she ends up having to move in with a random from the internet, Chloe, a socialite and con-artist who’s best friends with James Van Der Beek. Chloe pays for her apartment by running several cons, one of which is advertising for random roommates, taking their first and last month’s rent, and then proceeding to be a huge bitch until they are forced to move back to Indiana. June figures out Chloe’s game and refuses to move out, hilarity ensues.

Or at least it does until the show gets cancelled.

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I AM SO MAD THAT THIS SHOW WAS CANCELLED.

Not only did the the cast list include James Van Der Beek, of Dawson’s Creek, AS HIMSELF, it was hilarious, delightfully bizarre, and passed the Bechdel test with flying colors, every episode, constantly.

Things Chloe & June talked about besides a man:

1. Running cons

2. How to make hot, hot jam

3. Being the inspiration for a Japanese graphic novel entitled “Tall Slut No Panties”

4. How to best raise the foster child your roommate has taken in without your consent

5. Scrotum

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(RIP) Best Friends Forever

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Here lies another great comedy that aced its Bechdel test. Lennon & Jessica, formerly roommates, have been maintaining a bi-coastal best friendship since Jessica was married several years ago. When Jessica’s husband serves her divorce papers out of the blue, she returns to New York to move back in with Lennon– who now shares the apartment with her boyfriend, Joe. Hilarity ensues! Until it is cancelled.

Lennon & Jess talk about:

1. Steel Magnolias

2. Preparing lamb shanks for the perfect Lazy Sunday

3. Cougar Parties

4. Wearing sad khakis

5. Protecting your areolas

tumblr_inline_mialot96md1qz4rgpGet it, ladies.

So, yeah, there were some truly funny shows created by and starring women/girls/chicks last year. But movies and television shows that pass The Test are still not as common as they should be. Here’s hoping that this year we’ll see even more, and that they stay on the air as long as they deserve to.

‘Cause us ladies, we say lots of stuff. Right, June?

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