Alison Bechdel Claims Feminist Bechdel Test Was Originally A Joke, Dismayed About Films Taking Shortcuts With “Strong Female Characters”
Alison Bechdel, who coined the feminist Bechdel Test in her 1985 comic strip “The Rule” recently claimed the test was a joke and was not meant to be taken seriously.
In “The Rule” a woman explains to a friend that she will only go see a movie if it satisfies three rules. “One it has to have at least two women in it who two, talk to each other about, three something besides a man.”
In an interview with The Guardian back in July Bechdel admitted the test is a joke.
She was asked, “How do you feel about it these days?” In response, she said, “It was a joke. I didn’t ever intend for it to be the real gauge it has become and it’s hard to keep talking about it over and over, but it’s kind of cool.”
Bechdel was then asked if she found it dismaying that movies continue to fail the test.
She answered, “What’s really dismaying now is the way so many movies cynically try to take shortcuts and feature strong female characters – but they just have a veneer of strength and they’re still not fully developed characters.”
Bechdel’s criticism echoes what a number of top female actors have said in recent years. Back in November 2022, Emily Blunt shared with The Telegraph, “t’s the worst thing ever when you open a script and read the words ‘strong female lead.’ That makes me roll my eyes. I’m already out. I’m bored.”
She added, “Those roles are written as incredibly stoic, you spend the whole time acting tough and saying tough things.”
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law actress Tatiana Maslany described the concept of a “strong female lead” as “reductive” in an interview with The Guardian back in August 2022.
Maslany elaborated, “It’s just as much a shaving off of all the nuances, and just as much of a trope. It’s a box that nobody fits into. Even the phrase is frustrating. It’s as if we’re supposed to be grateful that we get to be that.”
Emma Thompson also told Culture Blast back in December 2020, “So all the women screenwriters I talk to, I say, ‘Well, what’s the story?’ Because it’s not good enough simply to give the women the guns, and then make the women badass, as well.”
“Now women have to be badass — if they’re feminine in the way that they used to be, and they’re not badass, then they’re not welcome,” she sighed. “Also, they’re not allowed to cry, apparently, anymore, because we’ve just got to be like the men.”
She continued, “And I remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s not what we meant.’ When I got a group of women together in my thirties, and I said, ‘Okay, what’s the female heroine? Who is that? What does she do?’ Because she hasn’t got the wherewithal to do the Superman, to do the Godfather, that’s not the point. That’s not where our heroism lies. So how do we make it heroic?”
What do you make of Bechdel admitting the test was a joke and was not meant to be taken seriously?