I first heard of the Bechdel test on screenwriter John August’s podcast Scriptnotes – a podcast well worth listening to if you’re interested in the craft (and psychology) of writing. But I only just now stumbled upon the fact that the origin of the Bechdel test was a comic!
In case you have no idea what the Bechdel test is, the criteria is this:
- Are there two or more female characters with names?
- Do they talk to each other?
- If they talk to each other, do they talk about something other than a man?
The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule (see above) and has since become a way to check Hollywood movies for equality issues. But why not hold your own feet to the fire and see if your comics pass the test? After all, women are an essential part of the population and (luckily) more and more prominent in comics, both as protagonists and as readers and creators. Still women characters in comics are often nothing but mere plot devices, like the worrying spouse or the damsel in distress – rarely do they drive the story and rarely do they have any personality to speak of (unless huge bosoms count as personality).
So what do you think? Do your comics pass or fail? I know my comics fail miserably, but at least the Bechdel is a way to gain some self-awareness on your storytelling habits.
If the test seems easy to pass, check out this list of movies that surprisingly fail the Bechdel test. If you want to hear the episode of Scriptnotes that discuss the Bechdel test, go here, and if you want to know more about Alison Bechdel and her comics, go here.
Now go make some comics with real
women people in them!