A new study about the representation of women in Hollywood thoroughly confirms what you have probably long ago come to perceive: most films do not come anywhere close to passing the Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test is Allison Bechdel’s simple test of any work of fiction: does it include two women who talk to each other about something other than a man? New research by Lyle Friedman, Matt Daniels and Ilia Blinderman examines the 4,000 films on bechdeltest.com and the overwhelming maleness of the industry, and their findings make a lot of sense: when women are involved with the making of a film, it has a much higher chance of passing the Bechdel Test.
When writing teams are entirely male, about 50% of films fail the Bechdel test. Add a woman to the mix and only a third of films fail. The seven films written entirely by women all pass the Bechdel test. Uncanny, right?
The Bechdel Test of course is not a perfect measurement—“oh my god, Becky, look at her butt” passes it—but this work nonetheless yields some interesting takeaways about Hollywood’s sexism.
Most interesting to me, perhaps, was the fact that international studios are way ahead of the curve when it comes to gender representation.
European studios are far more progressive than the US. France is killing it. Canal+ has about 200 films in our dataset, and a low 34% fail the Bechdel Test. US studios are a relative embarrassment: Warner Bros. (53% fail), Columbia (53% fail), and DreamWorks (55%).
And, largely, their work confirms that when men are allowed to make movies, they make movies about men.
The study also contains some very cool interactive visuals that allow you to look at the likelihood that a film will pass the Bechdel Test, sorting by writers and directors, and also by box office numbers and the backing studio. I spent quite a bit of time playing around with this Bechdel Test Simulator:
It’s pretty hilarious and pathetic how much including literally one woman in the process helps a film’s chances.
There’s a lot of interesting and frustrating stuff to pick through. The entire study is available here.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Image via Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty.