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EWA tests out the Bechdel Test

EWA tests out the Bechdel Test with Strasbourg's Cinéma Star

During the past two weeks, EWA Network in cooperation with the Femiguin’Fest Film Festival in Strasbourg invited the audience of the Cinema Star to apply the Bechdel test to the sixteen films of the programming.

The Bechdel Test evaluates the presence of female characters in films, and was made popular in 1985 through a comic strip written by Alison Bechdel, « Dykes to watch out for ». In this cartoon, two friends decide to go to the movies, when one of them explains to the other the three requirements a film needs to fulfill for her to watch it. To pass the Bechdel Test, the film has to : 1. Present at least two female characters (with names), 2. Who speak to each other, 3. About something else than a man.

Pretty basic requirements you might think, and you might even believe that a large majority of today’s films should easily pass this test. However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, only just about half of 2016s top grossing films completed all three criteria positively.

The results of EWA’s analysis show little variation to these figures. Over the two weeks of the Cinema Star programming, only 36% of films passed the Bechdel Test, including Happy End by Michael Haneke and Barbara by Mathieu Amalric. Whilst most films met the first and second criteria (81%), many failed to meet the last criterion. In films women seem to speak to each other about men only.

Interestingly enough, the Cinema Star viewers gave different interpretations of the Bechdel criteria. Sixty viewers handed in their questionnaires after the screenings, and out of the sixteen reviewed films, only nine received coherent evaluations. Whilst the application of the first criterion reached general consensus, the second and third criteria were applied less coherently. Though the Bechdel Test might appear simple to apply, in practice it has shown to be less so.

These results were presented at the opening of the FemigouinFest Film Festival organised by the local association La Nouvelle Lune and the Cinéma Star, on Friday 20th October. Strasbourg-based comedian and humorist Karen Chataîgner  and EWA project manager Cecilia Johnson-Ferguson teamed up to present the Bechdel test in stand-up comedy fashion.