Every time we hear of someone dismissing feminism as a label
or wondering aloud if the fight for equality is mostly over already, we want to
scream and stomp and throw things and ... then pull out all the numbers. Because, pulling out the numbers would be a good start. This latest analysis
of movies that pass the Bechdel test, for instance, is such a mic drop.
According to data site Silk the number of movies that pass the famous test —
there are two named female characters in the film who have a conversation with
each other that's not just about men — is dropping significantly. It went from
67.5 percent in 2013 to 55.4 percent in 2014.
That's just one of the many disturbing but fascinating ways
they parsed out the data from 1,500 movies released since 2010 (the numbers are
so much more depressing for animated films, for instance), and Parker Molloy at
Upworthy decided to bring the whole thing to our collective attention. Why is this happening? It's not because movies that give
equal or more attention to women than men don't make big bucks. As Molloy
points out, FiveThirtyEight proved that Bechdel-passing movies perform just as
well as the failures. Hello, Hunger Games, anyone?
"I wish I knew," Molloy said, when we reached out
to her about the story. "Maybe it's a focus on foreign markets (which
typically reward action/superhero films, which have always been historically
male-driven). Maybe it's a focus on remakes and sequels to existing male-driven
projects. Maybe it's that in a time where the film industry remains
particularly cautious and unwilling to take risks, there's an unconscious
reliance on formulaic romantic comedies, action films, and other formats less
likely to pass the test."I think there are a lot of women in the film and TV
industries doing great things, pushing for change, for improvement," she added.
No one is saying the Bechdel test is a perfect measure of an
equal treatment of women in a movie (there are some surprising films that
pass), but it is a pretty good indicator of a larger trend. In 2011, only 4.1
percent of theatrical films were directed by women, and 14.1 were written by
women. Then again, just look at one of the most prominent female directors of last
year, Angelina Jolie — there are possibly three sentences spoken by a woman in
Unbroken. This also reminds us of the debate going on in the YA community of
late, about certain male authors shying away from writing female characters.
Parker mentions how even the Harry Potter series doesn't
pass the Bechdel test. "Just think of how much greater these awesome
female characters could have been had they been given the same number of
conversation topics and opportunities to talk with each other about things
other than members of the opposite sex as their male counterparts were."
Maybe, just maybe, enough creative minds and the folks
holding the purse strings in Hollywood will take a look at numbers like this
and stretch themselves a bit. No one will regret it.