The Bechdel Test and Disney Films
There is a strong gender imbalance in Hollywood these days (and throughout the history of film) that has resulted in most studio films being very male-centric and featuring few (if any) female characters of substance. The Bechdel Test, originated by Alison Bechdel in her 1985 comic “The Rule” from “Dykes to Watch Out For”, is a litmus test for gauging the active presence of female characters in films and how well-rounded and complex those characters are.
The Bechdel Test Rules:
1. There are at least two (named/significant) female characters who…
2. Talk to each other about…
3. Something other than a man
Despite the simplicity of the rules, the Bechdel test can inspire a lot of disagreement when discussing particular films, with frequent debates about whether two females count as “named” characters and whether their conversation(s) are significantly non male-centric. I just saw Bridesmaids this past week, and with a cast of six female characters who do nothing BUT talk to each other, I think that the film passes the test with flying colors, but other people might argue that all of the conversations in Bridesmaids were about the wedding and relationships – and by extension, men.
Disney animated films seem to be a mixed bag of movies that pass or fail the Bechdel test. On one hand, female characters feature prominently in Disney’s “Princess” movies (but they don’t always talk to other women), and on the other hand, Pixar’s films are full of complex and interesting characters, but none of Pixar’s films have female characters as the central protagonists.
Below is a chart of how Disney films rank on the Bechdel test, according to submitters from the Bechdel Test Movie List.
Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
The Black Cauldron
A Bug’s Life
The Emperor’s New Groove
Home on the Range
Lilo and Stitch
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
The Princess and the Frog
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Toy Story 3
Do you disagree with the “Pass/Fail” status of any of these films? Share your opinions here or post your comments directly to the Bechdel Test Movie List website.