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]] Elysium (2013) [imdb]

This movie passed 3 of 3 tests. It was entered by James on 2013-08-10 17:15:51.



James said:
This movie was a dubious pass. It has two major female characters played by Alice Braga and Jodie Foster and they do have a scene together. But in that sequence one has been incapacitated and barely speaks.

Alice Braga's daughter is in the movie but only as a plot device that is never characterized and is never given anything interesting to say or do. She only has token interactions with her own mother, and spends most of the third act

Jodie Foster is certainly the most powerful figure in the narrative, but she's also the villain.

So dubious pass, although not especially progressive or offensive when it comes to gender politics.
Message posted on 2013-08-10 17:15:51
Becky said:
Why would it be dubious? Whether you disliked the lack of development/exploration of Matilda's character, it doesn't change the fact that she was still a named woman who had a conversation with another named woman (her mother, Frey).

There's nothing dubious about this. The film passes all three tests.
Message posted on 2013-08-12 02:03:11
James said:
I considered it a dubious pass because all the interactions between named female characters are token.

When Alice Braga and Jodie Foster are in the locker together they don't really talk to each other, as Foster is injured such that she can barely speak. Braga's daughter has a brief conversation with Matt Damon's character, but her scenes with Braga herself don't have any meaningful dialogue.

I don't feel like this movie passes the spirit of the test.

Message posted on 2013-08-15 16:48:28
Raf said:
Nothing wrong with Foster being a baddy, baddies are usually the most interesting and characterised characters!
Message posted on 2013-08-20 03:59:45
TS said:
There's absolutely nothing dubious here, Elysium clearly passes the test. In addition to the scene between Foster and Braga mentioned above, Braga's character Frey and her daughter Matilda have a conversation in the hospital about going home, which is brief but there is no time requirement in the Bechdel test. The Frey/Matilda scene in the hospital meets all the requirements: 1) Two named women 2) have a conversation 3) about something other than a man. Thus Elysium passes the test unambiguously.

I tend to see quite a few comments from people like James on this site and they seem to miss the entire point of the Bechdel test. The test is not meant to be a judgment of how progressive an individual movie is toward women, nor is it supposed to be hard to pass. It is intentionally designed to be a very low bar to clear in order to show a general pattern of Hollywood's inability to depict women on screen at even the most basic level. Elysium just barely clears this bar, yes, but it clears the bar without a doubt.
Message posted on 2013-08-22 00:14:53
Beaumain said:
James' rating shows just how misunderstood Bechdel test is. Elysium passed the test with two pairs of characters.
Message posted on 2013-08-25 22:26:46
neil (webmaster) said:
I've removed the dubious flag.
Message posted on 2013-08-26 05:53:18
James said:
I wasn't saying that the movie was bad, overtly sexist, or even failed the test.

I'm also not even suggesting that an individual movie needs to pass to qualify as being good or progressive.

Many of my favorite movies fail the test and I wouldn't change a frame. I'm pretty sure The Hurt Locker fails all three tests.

Pacific Rim was the biggest face down fail of the summer but it is not like its one female character is reduced to being the hero's reward for killing scores of aliens at the end.

I pegged Elysium as dubious because I felt there wasn't enough meaningful female interaction for it to pass the "spirit" of the test in my opinion. Maybe I'll need to watch it again when it comes out on DVD, because I honestly don't remember a real conversation between Alice Braga and her daughter.

And ideally I feel the Bechdel Test is best used as a platform to analyze female representation in movies overall.

A movie can pass or fail the objective tests without any regard its actual service to female characters.

And "analysis" isn't the same as strict up or down judgement.

Foster as the antagonist and Braga as the romantic interest are just points of interest to me as I meditate on the state of female roles in movies.

I don't want it sound like I think women can't be evil in movies. Just that I mark that kind of thing as a point of interest when watching movies under the context of the Bechdel Test and gender representation.

A movie with a sexist stereotype as the antagonist would get a different reaction from me completely.

And as I also pointed out, this movie also casts a woman as the story's key political player and another as its moral center.

And it's about class discrimination for crying out loud.
Message posted on 2013-08-29 11:22:06
Jenny said:
I totally agree with what James is saying.
Message posted on 2013-09-01 02:47:46
Jen said:
After a few of these reviews, you should quickly dismiss the "spirit" of the test, which is crude and was originally played for a jab. I wouldn't argue the "spirit" of a "Jen Test" where I won't see a movie unless there is a cat in it--there are so many good and bad ways to interpret the ONE rule that it's difficult to determine what exactly the spirit is, since I have not declared it. [Do "cat people" like the Na'vi of Avatar count? Must there be only one cat? Would I be better off just looking up cat videos on YouTube?]

The spirit of the test would frame female vs. male representation/interaction, spoken dialogue or no, and whether the characters are well-rounded or just cardboard cut-out stereotypes. That doesn't happen with the Bechdel Test, which simply determines whether the one character will watch a movie or not. [It just coincidentally happens to have feminist repercussions.]
Message posted on 2013-09-01 06:49:22
Katie said:
I also agree with James. Don't they have to be two women? The daughter is a girl. In that case if the criteria were altered to "two females" this might pass very feebly.
Jodie Foster's character only speaks to unnamed women to bark orders at them.
I think it's a shame because otherwise I quite liked the film.
Message posted on 2013-09-12 00:41:38
Bernie said:
Great analysis by James and the rest... After reading it I will watch the film only if I'm very bored. I enjoy watching realistic depictions of the world, ie. where women talk to each other about all sorts of things, instead of the unreality portrayed by Hollywood.
Message posted on 2013-09-20 11:35:56
UC said:
Jodie Foster's character isn't even the main antagonist, and she goes through a bit of redemption (IMHO) in during her death. The main antagonist is the completely insane (and depicted as being a rapist murderous sociopath) Kruger.

Overall there are 3 significant male characters (1 very bad, 1 mixed, 1 somewhat good) and 2 or 3 female characters (one bad, one very good and Matilda, who's good, is a very important part of the plot, but has little action).

And Bernie, if you want realistic depictions, you really shouldn't watch this movie, it's science fiction :)
Message posted on 2013-09-26 05:47:43
doncish disagreed with the rating and said:
I'd still say it's a dubious pass, but it depends on what you define as "talking".

In the scene where Jodie Foster dies, she utters a feeble sound/groan and makes a gesture to indicate that she does not want the other woman to help her. Does that count as talking?

In the scenes with mother and daugther, is there really any conversation about something other than the male protagonist? (In one scene the mother says that she knew him when she was a child herself.) If they ever talk about any other subjects I seem to have missed it.
Message posted on 2014-01-12 22:57:09
Jon disagreed with the rating and said:
I agree with James. This is a dubious pass at best.

As for the 'spirit' of the test...

Even Virginia Woolf acknowledged as far back as 1929 that male authors would include token relationships between mothers and daughters. That apparently wasn't very satisfying to her either.

And like James, I also do not even remember any meaningful interaction between the mother and daughter beyond the basic stock and trade autopilot type interactions that go without saying.

If one were to go by the 'spirit' of the Bechdel test, it would call for two female protagonists, whether good or bad makes no difference, and they have some kind of plot significant interaction.

Having one female character be the mother, and the other her macguffin, I mean child, is just a cop-out. Speaking of cop-outs, the Bechdel test has become so well known among screenwriters. So look for more of these token scenes in the future. It's not like something they're unaware of. But the basic underlying fundamental structure of storytelling remains the same.
Message posted on 2014-02-01 22:26:58
epk disagreed with the rating and said:
I would say the pass is dubious. My reasoning: I didn't remember Frey and Delacourt having a conversation, even though I watched the movie right before visiting this site. I was expecting to see a fail, seeing how misogynistic Elysium felt to me...

so, I believe it's at most a dubious pass.
Message posted on 2014-02-15 23:42:13
Danila said:
Clear pass. The conversation between Frey and Matilda at the hospital is meaningful and the scene is emotional. Frey tries to cheerfully tell her daughter that she is finally going home from the hospital, and the daughter wonders if this means she is all better. Pointedly the mother cannot respond since the child is actually being released because there is nothing more that can be done for her. This interaction is both meaningful and emotional and has nothing to do with any male character but adds depth to the relationship between mother and daughter.
Message posted on 2016-01-15 04:51:19

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