With Superhero movies becoming more and more popular and prevalent these days, it’s time to discuss the gender balance (or lack there of) we tend to see in such movies. We are familiar with the popularity of Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Ironman, Aquaman(? – if only to Watson), etc. But where do the female superheros fit in this male dominated franchise? With kick-ass characters like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Blackwidow, and more…how have we failed to properly tip the scales so that movie goers are seeing equal representation on screen?
I saw a great info-graphic the other day from The Daily Dot. They did a little research on the current superhero movies since X-Men came out in 2000, and asked if they pasted the Bechdel Test. This is what they reported:
Interestingly enough, they went on to say:
“A few of the Bechdel successes are obvious. Catwoman and Elektra both had female protagonists, meaning they were pretty much a shoo-in. The X-Men franchise also does well, due to its multiple female characters, although the most recent movie was a disappointment. After making Rogue and Jean Grey central characters in earlier films, Days of Future Past shunted all of its women into undeserved secondary roles.
Unsurprisingly, Bechdel failures tend to focus on male protagonists. Most scenes revolve around the hero, and since the vast majority of supporting characters are men, there are very few chances for two women to get together and have a conversation. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is particularly bad in this respect, apparently taking place in an alternate universe where 80 percent of the population is male.”
HA, that last line cracked me up “Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is particularly bad in this respect, apparently taking place in an alternate universe where 80 percent of the population is male.” It’s sad, but true. And I loved the Dark Knight Trilogy.
And I also want to point out that failing the Bechdel Test does not mean that the movie was bad. Most of these Superhero movies are pretty darn good, some of them extremely awesome! But what it shows is that there’s definitely an imbalance of female roles in superhero movies that don’t follow the same boring tropes.
The Daily Dot continues the discussion:
“Unless there’s a sensible explanation for the lack of women—say, the entire film only has two characters in it, or everything takes place on a 19th century naval vessel—then failing the Bechdel Test is a blatant sign of lazy, sexist writing. For films like Spider-Man, Batman, and The Avengers, all of which have extensive supporting casts, there’s really no excuse for having so few women in speaking roles.”
I don’t want to get on too big of a soapbox here (I’ll take a little box), but I agree with The Daily Dot, there really is no excuse for having so few women in speaking roles when it comes to superhero movies. So now I have to wonder, what will happen with the new onslaught of movies to come? From Age of Ultron, to Batman vs. Superman, and eventually getting to what I really crave which is Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Will the writers in Hollywood start to evolve to include more robust and intriguing roles for women that do not center around a male counterpart? It’s safe to say the women based movies like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel should be an excellent platform for such a movement, but you never know. My hopes is that these women led movies don’t become another “Catwoman” and are taken as a joke vs. a catalyst for change and good movie making.
So what do you think? Where are your thoughts in all of this? With a world of superhero movies on the horizon, there is definitely room for improvement, don’t you say?
(H/T to Cady Jackson for the article)
3 thoughts on “Does Your Favorite Superhero Movie Pass The Bechdel Test?”
I think it’s worth noting that, traditionally, a conversation about the Bechdel test accompanies a conversation about the male gaze. The assumption of the male gaze is that most film content is produced for men and therefore informs and confirms their fantasies about women–which generally doesn’t include women being smart and independent with other women (see Laura Mulvey for this idea). This is important for you, geekarella, as I know you’re always fighting the good fight in earning recognition for women as consumers of geekdom.
Well said my dear friend. Well said!
It is important to consider that passing a the test or not has nothing to do with the level of feminism or the quality of the female portrayal. For example, the movies which do the best in this regard are both of the Amazing Spider-man movies (due to their thoughtful handling of Gwen Stacy) and The Winter Soldier (due to making Black Widow a secondary protagonist with her own arc which has nothing to do with romance) – both movies don’t pass the test. Catwoman on the other hand which does it not only laughable bad, it is also downright offensive towards females on every level. Then there is the source material to consider. I am, for example, very miffed concerning the X-Men movies, because they constantly marginalized some of Marvel’s best and most powerful female characters, turning them into plot devices for the Wolverine Show, but ready to give “Captain America” a lot of credit for taking a mostly underdeveloped character from the Comics in Peggy and giving her enough foundation that she is now starring in her own TV-show and has become one of the most popular Comic book characters on TV.
The Bechtel test is mostly there to show a trend. It currently tells us that Comic book movies still have a long way too go concerning representation. It tells us nothing about how good the female character are written.