COLUMN: The Bechdel test

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For those who are unfamiliar, the Bechdel Test is a quick assessment of the role of women in a particular film or theatre production. Developed by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test has three simple requirements: (1) it has to have at least two women in it who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. Simple, right? Yet, many films and shows fail to meet these requirements.

By Michael Shutack, Staff Writer

Perhaps at this point you’ve realized that some of your favorite productions fail the Bechdel Test. Yes, “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” have betrayed you. Those shows don’t feature strong women; they’re just girls infatuated with the men in their lives. So what’s next? Should failure of the test lead to a boycott? Or can exceptions be made?

To be honest, I don’t know the answers to those questions and I can’t tell you what to do. Perhaps that’s for the best. After all, I am a straight, white male. However, I do believe that women still need better representation in the performing arts. I’m sick of seeing the “Wizard-of-Oz ratio” in movies and plays (3 men, 1 woman). 

You’d think Hollywood and Broadway would have learned by now but that’s not the case. The Oscar-winning film “Moonlight” fails the test, the Tony-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” fails the test and the Tony-winning play “Oslo” fails the test. It is 2017! Where are all the strong women?

To theatre performers and appreciators, I urge you to at least become aware of the situation. Question the role of women in the production. Challenge the artists in charge of the project. Put every movie, TV show, play, and musical through the Bechdel Test. Learn from it.