UPDATE: Ed Howard points out I’m wrong about The Women. Or he says he thinks I’m probably wrong, and I have to say I agree. Norma Shearer talked with her kid about the pony or something.


Now the original post:

I talked about the rule and posted the cartoon here. A few people commented, so here I’m recapping what I think they said and explaining myself where I need explaining.

To start out, maybe we can all agree that “rule” is not the correct word here. A rule tells you what you can’t do (as in, don’t see that film). A test is different. It’s a perception clarifier, a way of flushing out objective reality; what you do about that reality is then up to you.  And it’s as a test, not a rule, that all of us here use the Bechdel principle, to the extent we do use it. Bechdel’s cartoon was called “The Test,” but it was about (and for) women who wanted to get as far away from male society as they could.

Ok, in Comments:

Aaron White points us to a post where he applies the test to some favorite movies. He gives L’Eclisse (The Eclipse) as a Bechdel winner: “Women discuss playing the stock market, living in Africa, ‘What shall we do tonight?'” I haven’t seen it, but that sounds like the idea.

Noah gives examples of sexist films that would pass the rule and of nonsexist films that wouldn’t. 

The commenters all agree that the movie audience is not overwhelmingly male. 

Miriam says: it is startling, once you know the rule, to realize how many movies fail it. & how virtually no movies would fail the test if it were about men.”  I’d say that hits it on the head. The test isn’t so much a way of finding sexist or nonsexist movies. It’s a reality check for telling us where we stand, which is in front of a cineplex in a male-dominated society.

As for male movie audiences … I think the subject was accidentally brought into play by a phrase in my post.  I said Sunset Boulevard was made by men and aimed at an audience “at least as male as not.” The phrase means that the audience for Sunset Boulevard would not be majority female, which I think is a fair guess (though only a guess) for that movie. And the sentence doesn’t say the audience’s gender mix is what lies behind the problem. I list a few factors: writer, director, audience mix. But maybe it struck people as saying audience mix was the trump card, the key factor.

Miriam offers this:


i think any given movie is “a male product” only insofar as we live in a “male” (ie sexist, where men are the norm & women are a special case) culture. but maybe that is what you were saying.


I think I disagree. All movies are part of the same society, and the society is male dominated, but not all movies are equally male dominated. I’d say the relevant factors can balance out differently for one film or another, with the obvious examples being romantic comedies vs. buddy action films. But the most powerful factors all point the same way, so the balancing out tends to favor men.