Bechdel Test: A Very Minimal Standard

The Bechdel Test is usually applied to movies. It looks at female presence in movies by asking 1. are there at least two named women characters, 2. who talk to each other, 3. about something other than a man. Given this definition, you can apply the Bechdel test to books.

I’ve been thinking about this test and books, especially The Hunger GamesCatching Fire, and The Mockingjay, because Katniss only has real give-and-take relationships with men. She is usually surrounded by men, even though there are other women who lead in the book. Those other women who lead are also surrounded by men. All three books pass the Bechdel test as it stands. But the test doesn’t get at whether the women who talk to each other about something other than a man in the books or movies have a relationship that goes beyond the superficial. There is some discussion floating around the internet about whether the test should be modified beyond the basics – here is one that looks at 2011 Oscar-nominated films and whether they pass the test.

What do you think? How can the Bechdel Test be modified for books to better test for female presence in books? Or do we need this thing anyhow?


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