With International Women’s Day on March 8, take a look at some movies that don’t pass the Bechdel test, learn about other diversity-based media tests [MUSE]

Maddie Misterka

Media Tests:

Bechdel Test: The Bechdel test is the most famous diversity test for media with three criteria. One, there are at least two named female characters, two, they speak to one another, and three, they speak to each other about any other topic than a man. This test aims to dissect the narrative that women only exist in film as plot devices to further men’s storylines or as “eye-candy” for viewers.

Riz Test: Focusing on Islamophobia, the Riz test evaluates whether there is an identifiable Muslim character in a piece of media and if they exist outside of the narrative of terrorism or governmental instability. This test is “passed” when characters do not have direct links or history to terrorism or are presented as “different” from traditional western characters because of their religion in ways that do not pertain to the religion itself.

Maisy Test: Focusing on sexism in kids’ TV shows, the Maisy test evaluates whether or not male and female characters are shown in approximately equal numbers, or with similar status. This test evaluates the power and gender roles of characters to see whether the “leader” characters in a show are predominately one gender or another, possibly alienating an audience of the show from feeling seen.

Movies that fail that I still love:

Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2: The Toy Story movies were a staple of my childhood so I am disappointed to say the first two movies of the series fail the Bechdel test. When we look at why, it’s understandable. Bo Peep was present mainly for Woody, Mrs. Potato Head was always speaking to her husband and Jessie, who spent her time worrying about her last owner and her friends’ well being, never really spoke to other female characters. The movies flourish not on representation, however, but on nostalgia and connection to our childhood imaginations, so as I get older and start to miss my childhood more, I can excuse this fail more and more each day.

Silence of the Lambs: Taking a major mood swing to this movie, Clarice Starling is a prominent figure in this murder mystery movie. However, her character is so reliant on male characters and the named females tend to be victims, making this movie receive a big old F, starkly contrasting its 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. I tend to be easy to please, but this movie has never failed to knock me away in actor dedication or characterization. 

La La Land: Although it may not be a champion of diversity, I will defend La La Land until the day I die. I have stayed up many nights watching Mia and Sebastian fall in and out of love, and almost as many nights crying about the ending. While Mia’s friends are featured in the movie, they are not given names or “substantial” conversations, making the “aspirational girlboss” goal of Mia’s character a little less severe. Nonetheless, the characterization, artistry of color grading and gorgeous soundtrack still make this movie a must see.