Bechdel Test Movie List

/bech·del test/ n.
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

[[3]] Mulan (1998) [imdb]

This movie passed 3 of 3 tests (although dubious). It was entered by neil on 2008-08-10 19:28:44.



neil said:
In the beginning of the movie, Mulan, her mother, and grandmother talk/sing about marriage, and her being a proper wife and such.
Message posted on 2008-08-10 20:26:06
nightgigjo disagreed with the rating and said:
Talking about marriage/being a proper wife is *still* talking about a man -- even if he's neither present nor specified.

This one only passes 2 out of 3.
Message posted on 2009-12-04 23:29:42
Luz said:
Mulan has female ancestors who converse with each other.
Message posted on 2009-12-28 06:17:20
Renee disagreed with the rating and said:
The female ancestors count if we don't mind them not having names. Singing about marriage and being a proper wife DOES denote a discussion about a man (the hypothetical-husband).
Message posted on 2010-06-17 09:09:40
Renee disagreed with the rating and said:
There is ONE scene where two women talk and it has nothing to do with men.

Mulan: I'm here!
Fa Li: *glares*
Mulan: What? But mama! I had to-
Fa Li: None of your excuses!

That there is strictly between mother and daughter and a perpetual battle of wills. Or rather, a battle of mother's wits against Mulan's unorthodox behavior.
Message posted on 2010-08-30 05:25:48
Tyler said:
Mulan's mother and Grandmother talk about luck in the scene where the Grandmother crosses the road with the cricket.
Anything the Mother says is not about marriage in that scene.
Message posted on 2011-01-18 20:40:27
Aubree said:
I disagree with the idea that talking about a wedding=discussing a man. Weddings are an event in a woman's life. You could make the argument that two catholic women discussing a baby daughter's upcoming baptism is about a man because a man would be assumed to be part of the ceremony.
Message posted on 2011-12-21 06:08:15
Jenna Haze said:
Mulan sings to her reflection and her reflection sings back when she is having a crisis over who is the girl she sees staring straight back at me. Checkmate atheists.
Message posted on 2013-04-04 22:39:53
SteamyThePunk disagreed with the rating and said:
Mulan doesn't pass.
Mulan's unnamed ancestors scarcely qualify as characters, they are more of a device than characters.

Everything going on between the grandmother mother and Mulan is not about a marriage as much as it is about bridal training, being trained to appear before a suitor, and I've seen people claim Bechdel test failure over much MUCH less. There is not one interaction among that lot that isn't about a man, or about preparing ones self for a man.

Mulan singing to her reflection doesn't count, Mulan's reflection is not a separate character from Mulan.
Message posted on 2013-05-09 03:45:35
luminum said:
So, as a question about this movie failing because marriages inevitably are about preparations for men, would future films involving women talking about marriages that are same-sex female marriages, or just marriages in general be ruled out? Consider that when marriage normes shift to being both opposite- and same-sex comprehensive, will films discussing women entering into generic, unspecified marriages be fodder for disqualification?

Additionally, there are parts of the song where the topic is about men: what men want, etc., and there are parts where the song is about women's place in society through marriage and childbirth, which are only incidentally about men in that they would logically necessitate the participation of a man (historically, anyway, since there's no same-sex marriage in historical China).

However, there are a few scenes that pass:

Grandmother Fa tells Fa Li that the ancestors cannot be lucky because they're dead, Fa Li calls out after Grandmother Fa not to walk into the street, and she respond that the cricket it lucky:

Fa Li: I should have prayed to the ancestors for luck.

Grandmother Fa: How lucky can they be? They're dead. Besides, I've got all the luck we'll need.

Fa Li: Grandma, no!

Grandmother Fa: Yep! This cricket's a lucky one!

There are also interactions that are not specifically about a man:

Mulan: I'm here. What? But MaMa, I had to-

Fa Li: No excuses! Now let's get you cleaned up!


Mulan: It's freezing!

Fa Li: Well, it would have been warm if you were here on time.


Fa Li: Mulan, what's this? (indicating notes she took)

Mulan: Uh, notes? In case I forget something?

Grandmother Fa: Hold this. We'll need more luck than I thought.


And lastly, when the army comes to make the proclamation, Fa Li tells Mulan to stay inside.

You can also argue that the interactions between Grandmother Fa, Fa Li, and Mulan about "blowing it" or messing up refer specifically to her session with the Matchmaker, who is a woman, and not directly about a man.

When the Matchmaker marks Mulan down, Grandmother Fa asks Fa Li "Who spit in her beancurd?" and later says, "I think it's going well."

Interestingly, when the Matchmaker is testing Mulan, she doesn't really bring up her husband, instead stating that she is too skinny to bear sons, and that she must demonstrate grace and dignity to please her in-laws. This suggests that the idea of "honor" through marriage is not really male-focused, and more focused on the ability to produce male children and please family members.

You could then argue that the film is definitely functioning within a patriarchal framework (not to mention that it's the theme in which Mulan must rebel against), but is not specifically resulting in the topics of discussion being directly about a man.
Message posted on 2013-05-10 05:15:19
luminum said:
Also, kind of obvious, but worth mentioning: this is one of the few Disney films (I can only think of Aladdin as the other) that passes the Racial Bechdel Test. A film that doesn't require the involvement of white characters (not that it would have made sense for either of those anyway) and that's composed entirely of people of color. (Of course, you could also critique the issues at hand with emphasizing Anglo-features in protagonists of color, such as those that happened in Aladdin...)
Message posted on 2013-05-10 05:25:48
Amanda said:
I agree that any conversations with Mulan, her mom, and her grandmother all pass. They are talking about many different things while she gets ready to see the Matchmaker (who is a woman). The only problem I see is whether the mom and grandmother's names are actually said in the movie. Just naming them in the credits doesn't count as far as I'm concerned. If they are named, then the movie passes.
Message posted on 2013-07-09 22:23:05
Jo disagreed with the rating and said:
Her entire character revolves around men. She's constantly thinking of men, helping them, doing what they say. Nothing horrible with it, just saying, it's all about men.
Message posted on 2015-08-23 18:03:38
John said:
Jo, be that as it may, none of that is a criteria of the test. Their thoughts nor the plot of the movie are considered. It is irrelevant. Mulan passes.
Message posted on 2015-09-10 01:27:10
Julie disagreed with the rating and said:
The fact that a movie like Mulan, whose main character is such a damn icon of feminism, barely passes with such dubious results just shows how this test proves nothing about sexism. Though it works in some cases, it should not be seen as any kind of standard. I want to remind everyone of the LITERAL DEFINITION OF FEMINISM: the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic EQUALITY to men. THAT MEANS THAT THE MEN AND WOMEN HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS. Just because a movie has more male characters than women does not make it sexist, specifically if the main character is female and the entire damn movie is based on her destroying gender stereotypes and saving her entire country along the way.
Message posted on 2015-12-20 06:20:59
Jim said:
Discussing marriage does not equal discussing a man. Mulan and company discuss marriage as a societal obligation. This is not just flippant pining over a man, it is a discussion on the pressures young women face in Mulan's society.

If anything, the theme of that particular conversation, the following song, and the movie on the whole is that these strict gender roles should be questioned. To claim this movie does not pass the Bechdel test is just silly.

One final thought -- at the palace battle, we have 3 named transvestite characters talking about body image. One could argue that these characters were presenting as female, and as such are fair game.
Message posted on 2016-07-18 16:28:00
Emily said:
Okay but this whole movie is about breaking gender stereotypes and how women can do anything. How is that not "feminist"?
Message posted on 2017-03-26 21:46:51
Jen disagreed with the rating and said:
It's not dubious. Regardless of whether a man is involved in a marriage, marriage itself is not a man. Passes with flying colours.
Message posted on 2017-10-09 14:38:28

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