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]] 12 Years a Slave (2013) [imdb]

This movie passed 3 of 3 tests. It was entered by carlita on 2014-01-03 02:49:11.



carlita said:
There are important female characters but I can't remember that they talked to each other. You can't count the mistress' cruelty to Patsey!
Message posted on 2014-01-03 02:49:11
Teacher H said:
Patsy and Mistress Shaw (Alfred Woodard) talk to each other briefly, don't they? The topic is men, or specifically masters.
Message posted on 2014-01-09 23:07:47
nike said:
There are several named female characters, but they don't talk to each other. On one occasion, Patsey is seen talking to Ms Shaw when Solomon approaches them, but we don't hear what they are talking about. So indeed, it fails.
Message posted on 2014-01-10 14:04:37
boofapples said:
When Solomon goes to the other plantation (I believe the Shaw plantation) to fetch Patsey for Mr. Epps, Patsey is having tea with Mistress Shaw. I do recall the two talking about men (Mr. Shaw and Mr. Epps), however I cannot recall if they spoke on anything else. Regardless, the rating should be at least that two women spoke to each other, but only about a man.
Message posted on 2014-01-11 11:27:09
Mehal said:
I think this movie passes 3/3 depending on your definition of "conversation." Why doesn't all the abuse hurled by the mistress at Patsey count? When she's handing out baked goods and specifically excludes Patsey, was that not enough?
Message posted on 2014-01-14 01:06:29
bridget said:
what about when patsy has lunch with mistress shaw?
Message posted on 2014-01-14 13:53:36
rick said:
There are actually at least five women I can think of off the top of my head in this movie. One of them, (Fassbender's wife) talks to him about their slaves. Another plantation owner's wife sits at a table with two other women and talks to Ejiofor about her husband. Many other examples, dont know how it got a "no women" rating...
Message posted on 2014-01-15 04:46:00
elmiguelo said:
I don't remember for certain, but I believe there was a scene involving two women (both slaves, but one with a higher status than the other) conversing over tea?
Message posted on 2014-01-15 05:32:05
Geoffrey said:
There are a few instances that could arguably pass the test:
1. When the slaves from the New Orleans market arrive at Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch)'s plantation, Eliza is weeping. Mistress Ford asks why and is told that Eliza was separated from her children. Mistress Ford speaks to Eliza, telling her that she'll forget her children soon enough. (Eliza doesn't respond, so not sure if this is 'talking to each other', but it's definitely not about a man.)
2. When Mistress Shaw speaks to Patsey while they're having tea, Shaw tells Patsey about dealing with overbearing masters in general; she doesn't talk about any particular man. She advises Patsey basically to be submissive, that it's better than resisting; but she doesn't mention Master Shaw or Epps or any other specific man. Again, Patsey doesn't respond (verbally, at least).
3. As others have mentioned, Mistress Epps passes out pastries to the slaves when they're in the house. Mistress Epps addresses all of them when she begins, and I believe says "Not you" or similar directly to Patsey when she passes over Patsey. Once again, Patsey doesn't respond verbally.
Message posted on 2014-01-16 15:40:19
JK said:
But Geoffrey, as you say, those are all cases where one woman speaks to another, but the second doesn't respond. I think that makes this a clear 1/3. Now, you're right to point out that there are important female characters and relationships between women in this movie, which is great, but it's a clear Bechdel fail.
Message posted on 2014-01-17 18:29:36
Sammy said:
There is a few exchanges between Anne Hampton, his wife, and Margaret Hampton, his daughter. There is another scene where Eliza is separated from her daughter, Emily. Eliza hugs her and cries and mutters something about being strong and Emily tells Eliza not to worry.

Clearly a 3/3.
Message posted on 2014-02-11 06:27:55
Luke said:
There are several occasions at which women discuss things other than men, firstly when the first Mistress utters that comment about her new slave getting over the loss of a child. That is enough to pass the test on a strict statistical basis, not to mention the forced dancing scenes, which in some ways have a male subtext. I think this points out the failures of the Bechel test, this film did a fantastic job developing female characters, mainly Patsy, and evoking the struggles they had in that period. If one was to describe how progressive this film is in regards to women it would probably be more so than many others that pass.
Message posted on 2014-02-15 20:44:46
Elizabeth said:
The vulture link below has the exact wording of the tea scene conversation. I'm not sure why the moderator hasn't changed this rating, since it's led to this film being unjustly rated as failing in major news media.
Message posted on 2014-02-28 17:58:58
neil (webmaster) said:
I've updated the rating from 1/3 to 3/3.
Message posted on 2014-02-28 21:08:27
Emily disagreed with the rating and said:
I disagree that the Mrs. Epps & Patsey exchanges pass the test. While they may not be overtly discussing men, the subtext is made crystal clear: Mrs. Epps dislikes Patsey because she is jealous of Mr. Epps' infatuation with her. Two women fighting over a man (or in this case, one woman torturing a subordinate woman), is a pretty major FAIL as far as I'm concerned.
Message posted on 2014-04-12 22:32:29
Thomas said:

You can't read subtext into the conversation, its not overtly about men and therefore passes the test IMO.
Message posted on 2014-07-25 11:52:15
Maxwell disagreed with the rating and said:
When ms. Epps speaks abusively to Patsy, even if it isn't a conversation by some people's standards, its subtext is that Ms. Epps wants to get back at Patsy for Mr. Epps relationship with her, so it might not be counted for a conversation not about a man anyway
Message posted on 2014-08-10 20:41:41
J. Austin said:
"The vulture link below has the exact wording of the tea scene conversation. I'm not sure why the moderator hasn't changed this rating, since it's led to this film being unjustly rated as failing in major news media. "

But Elizabeth, this script extract doesn't actually support your assertion about there being _any_ level 2 or 3 Test-passing dialogue between Patsy and Mistress Shaw!

In fact, it's entirely in keeping with what I'm looking at on the the Blu-ray; when the shot moves to Solomon walking up the stairs, there's an audio fade-in of Mistress Shaw saying one line of dialogue exclusively to Patsy, a mere sentence fragment ("showed his hand").

Patsy then has a single line of dialogue, directed not at the other woman, but at Solomon, in protest at him instructing her to return to their plantation; "The Sabbath day, I's free to roam."

Almost all of the scene is Solomon conversing with Shaw, and Shaw responding with dialogue that is, at best, meant for both her listeners.

That isn't a depiction of a conversation between Patsy and Shaw, not beyond 1/3 at least.

Sorry, the mod really shouldn't give this movie a 3/3 on the test. Not on this scene, and particularly not on any of the other scenes depicting ambivalent, single-line-dialogue interactions between female characters (particularly RE the scenes of the white women characters talking _at_ the black women characters, not with them, remember).

We're entitled to our own opinions on this movie and how good it is at depicting female characters, but we're not entitled to our own facts about it somehow easily meeting a serious yes/no evidence based test like Bechdel. Because it doesn't.

Message posted on 2015-01-26 16:15:21
J. Austin disagreed with the rating and said:
Addendum: I disagree with the current rating, but on second thought I guess I should say the Patsy/Mistress Shaw scene is a weak 2/3, not a weak 1/3 (the movie is actually a very strong 1/3, fwiw.)
Message posted on 2015-01-26 16:28:24
Ellie disagreed with the rating and said:
This movie should be changed to a 1/3. No two female characters have a conversation, in which one character says something and the other responds. Thus, it doesn't pass the second criteria, let alone the third.
Message posted on 2016-04-18 16:27:04

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