The Bechdel Test, named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, asks whether a work of fiction (usually a movie) features at least two female characters and if those characters talk about something that isn't one of the male characters. It's shocking how many movies fail this test, and fail it hard, but a new chart, made by Vocativ (via Jezebel), show that movies that passed the Bechdel Test (however sparingly) actually made more money in 2013 than those that failed. Yee-haw!
At the top of the list, in terms of things passing the test (and making oodles of money) are things like the Guillermo del Toro-produced gothic ghost story "Mama" and the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy cop comedy "The Heat," along with the Disney productions "Oz the Great and Powerful" (a movie that has a surprisingly well rounded cadre of women characters) and, of course, our beloved "Frozen." It helps too that "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is a big Bechdel Test winner, both in terms of being a winning feminist work and a terrific box office powerhouse.
What's also interesting is that Natalie Portman brought up the Bechdel Test when we spoke to her about "Thor: The Dark World" a few months ago. She was impressed by the movie's female characters, and according to this chart, it does get a pass... but just barely.
On the loser side of things are movies like "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," whose only major female character had to be invented whole cloth, and "Pacific Rim," an oddly optimistic, nearly utopian future world in which every major race and nationality is depicted but there's only ever one girl (unlike "The Hobbit," "Pacific Rim" was something of a box office dud, as well).
The hope is that Hollywood producers and financiers see this chart and notice that, hey, smart, uncompromising movies with strong female characters that don't have to rely on men for their sense of self worth can be box office hits. And that they should make lots and lots and lots of them.