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

[[1]] Ex Machina (2015) [imdb]

This movie passed 1 of 3 tests. It was entered by roxanne on 2015-01-27 21:53:35.



Luke said:
The film passes the first 2 tests. Ava whispers something to Kyoko after Ava gets out of her prison.
Message posted on 2015-02-14 23:16:44
Steve said:
As Luke says, Ava and Kyoko have an unheard conversation.

More to the point though, the movie also fails the reverse Bechdel. There's only two male characters, and they only talk about Ava or Kyoko.

Secondly, the tone of the film is arguably a feminist one. I think the point that it fails the Bechdel test is more a comment on the male characters and the fact they imprison and separate the female characters than it is of any misogyny of the narrative.
Message posted on 2015-02-21 20:20:10
keira said:
I'm not sure if it counts or not given that the characters are arguably not women - they are robots and have no 'real' gender (though that is subjective and one of the points/discussions in the film)

It must be remembered, though, that this is a film that literally only has 2 human characters.

I also agree with Steve, the film is the opposite of being sexist.
Message posted on 2015-04-11 14:14:45
Trinity said:
I don't think an unheard conversation counts for Point 2, since we need to know the content of that conversation to determine Point 3. And since Kyoko didn't speak at any time during the movie, I don't think she spoke to Ava anyway. Ava appeared to whisper a few words to Kyoko but to call that a conversation is a big stretch.
Message posted on 2015-04-19 04:09:00
Brian said:
We do hear Ava say out loud to Kyoko, "Who are you?"

Whether a question to a mute character counts as a conversation, I doubt it, but maybe.
Message posted on 2015-04-26 01:06:30
sandra said:
Rating is correct.
Ava and Kyoko aren't women, they're idealistic versions of women created by a man. And basically only created to further his fame and/or have sex with them.
How exactly is the tone feminist?? As for reverse Bechdel, the two characters talk about much more than the robots. Explaining the touring test, talking about AI in general, talking about the surveillance, the escape, .. the only humans in the movie are men.
Yeah, definitely doesn't pass.
Message posted on 2015-05-02 04:18:08
Mike said:
I agree the film does not pass.

In response to Sandra: I found the movie to have a feminist tone. The men in the film definitely represent patriarchy. Ava, Kyoko, and the other unnamed robots where given abilities to reason and feel as humans, but Nathan still treated them as beneath him. He only exploited them in domestic and sexual roles. Ava was psychologically abused.

Those facts definitely touched on feminist themes, but I didn't feel that it really had a feminist tone until Ava left without Kaleb. The standard trope would have been for the two of them to leave together. Kaleb was the nice guy, and was "owed" Ava for his sacrifice by Hollywood conventions. When Ava ascends the staircase to the outside world she is rising above her prison, her status as property, and enters independence.

Granted, there a lot of mythological connections as well, but that was how I personally took it.
Message posted on 2015-05-15 03:29:49
Keith said:
They are female-simulated robots. Not actual women. The only women are at the very beginning of the movie and are not named. 0 for 3.
Message posted on 2015-05-15 20:53:56
Tom said:
I agree with the rating, but I think it contains quite a nuanced view of gender dynamics and explores them in quite a feminist way. The power imbalance of Nathan and the AI's is conveyed by creating a parallel with the very askew male/female dynamic. I.e. the voyeurism. The moral compass of the film, Caleb, becomes deeply uncomfortable with the treatment of the AI's in parallel with Nathan's mistreatment of Kyoko.

When Ava wore clothes, it seemed to me a very powerful comment on the artificiality of what we expect femininity to be.
Message posted on 2015-05-16 13:22:18
Lloyd said:
I agree that it does not pass the test, but I don't think that makes it sexist.

Anyone arguing that the movie was about overpowering women or was advocating using them as property/for sex didn't see the entire movie or didn't fully understand the point of it.
It's a movie about women who rise out of that perceived role and avoid the expectations that the male characters have of them (i.e. Caleb imagining that he and Ava will become romantically involved after he frees her, and Ava wildly subverting his fantasy).

And as for the argument, "They're not women, they're robots," Nathan very clearly and definitively says in the movie that they are female. He programmed them to be female, and they are given female "parts." Furthermore, at the very least Ava identifies as female.
They are female characters, regardless of whether they are not human. The Bechdel test says nothing about the characters having to be human women, just that they must be women.

I think it passes at least two of the requirements (two names women, and they talk to each other, albeit briefly), but it certainly doesn't pass the last.
Message posted on 2015-05-23 06:13:42
Kalimohan said:
Due to Ava's whispering is not an conversation, the movie failed the Bechdel Test.

But the AI's in the film are definitely Women. Not human Women, but Women. Ava would be commonly perceived as a Woman, if one do not know that she is an AI. Even if you know it, most likely subconsciously will automatically perceive her as a Woman. Accordingly she is in the same situation like human Women.

For me it makes no difference whether she is a human being, a creature from another planet or an Artificial Intelligence. As long as she is female and has consciousness, she can count on my loyality.
Message posted on 2015-05-23 20:23:20
Drake said:
It's hard for a movie this minimalist to pass the Bechdel test. There are only 4 named characters, one of which has no lines, and it takes place nearly entirely inside one house. Ultimately, this is a well written Scifi drama that delves into the philosophical topic of what it means to be self-aware. The film fully exploits male/female and master/servant relationships to this end.

If you're into dramas that question human nature like this, it is definitely a film worth seeing.
Message posted on 2015-05-28 18:01:15
Isia said:
I agree that this film doesn't pass the Bechdel logic test (for that is what the BT is, simple logic test witha binary result.)

However I truly hope that people don't only use this test when figuring out if a complex work of art is sexist, or for that matter, worth seeing.

It's a good test for most mainstream films but fails when it comes to minimalist or esoteric productions or ones that live mostly outside the common tropes. Ex Machina definitely lives outside that box.
Message posted on 2015-06-18 16:33:19
Rose said:
This film clearly fails the Bechdel Test and is an example of how every test of anything ever in the world, even a valid and useful test, falls short of perfectly describing the world and should be used along with other metrics to meaningfully measure anything. (Which hey, is a theme of the film, so, coolness!) The Bechdel Test is designed as a low threshold test, ie, one that accepts a high percentage of false positives in order to avoid false negatives. This is partly because the original joke from which it was derived was about the very low standards you would have to set to find a 'feminist' movie at your local theater on a Saturday night. However, The Bechdel test does not work well for detecting the presence of feminist themes in films with few characters, isolated character, or gender non-conforming/non-binary characters. So, I always take it with a grain of salt in those circumstances. Now the fact that the males are the humans and the females are the Robots really cut both ways here as far as the whole 'how feminist is this movie' issue. On the one hand, OF COURSE *that* would be how the issue is handled because this film comes from a deeply misogynistic culture and is only now, after more than ten-thousand years, beginning to question that history. On the other hand, the film actually acknowledges and says something about that fucked up history rather than *only* using it as a convenient source of symbolic contrast, which would have been pretty easy to do.
Message posted on 2015-06-19 14:51:38
smartalek said:
I mean no disrespect to anyone, but I do feel impelled to point out that, even if we do buy into the concept that an AI can be "gendered," it's (in this case at least) not a natural, evolved, or biological, let alone human, "gender" -- it's the utterly artificial imposition by a massively messed-up male designer of what he perceives and desires a "female" gender MADE FOR HIS USE and exploitation (personally and eventually commercially) to consist of...
Which is, as evidenced by everything else in Nathan's visible behaviors in the story, a highly limited, warped, and self-serving definition.
A completely unrealistic one.
It's the "Real Girl" (a perfect oxymoron) trope taken to a pretty obscene extent.
(And, accordingly, I disagree with the rating. Other than the un-named female co-workers at the beginning and a few passing women pedestrians in the last two shots, there are no "women" in this movie at all. But that's really a secondary consideration here.)
Message posted on 2015-07-21 11:07:31
salfat said:
Just a meta comment: I think it's rare to find anything worth spending a lot of time on these days on the internet (most things seem a bit trite and underwhelming, really). But I really love the comments and discussions on this site, and this film in particular. I agree that whether or not a given film passes the test should not be the sole criterion for choosing to see a movie. (Also because, sadly, this would narrow the number of films one could watch to very few.) But I'm glad someone set up this site and thank everyone on here for the debate!
Message posted on 2015-08-12 12:43:44
Bryan said:
Ava counts as a woman in the same way that a transgendered woman counts as a woman, which is to say: completely.

The fact that she is not natural or "biological" is perfectly irrelevant. She presents as a woman, and willingly does so, if we look at the ending, the clothes she chooses to wear, etc. She chooses womanhood for the power it gives her over Caleb, and we know this when we find out (spoiler) that she has been playing him this whole time.

Furthermore, even if we didn't accept that Ava is a woman because she chooses to be a woman (and we should, though Kyoko's choice is less clear/ unexplored), she is clearly a stand-in for a woman philosophically, in the same way that a female cartoon character is not a "literal woman" but still counts or a female cat in a movie like Incredible Journey should still count. The fact that the character is not human is 100% irrelevant SO LONG AS THEY FILL THE NARRATIVE ROLE OF A HUMAN WOMAN. Which Ava certainly does.
Message posted on 2015-08-12 17:43:08
Alexandre said:
The argument that Ava and Kyoko are not women miss the point of the Bechdel test, in my understanding. They are female even though they are robots. The rules of the test do not exclude non-human characters. Is Dory from Finding Nemo not a female character?

For most of the movie, the two female characters never appear in the same scene. And when it does happen, close to the ending of Ex Machina, the audience can't hear their interactions. I do believe, however, that the movie passes the second Bechdel test. They do interact and we can cleary see Alicia Vikander's lips whispering something (that would certainly fail the third test if we could hear it). It is somewhat dubious, but they do interact even if we can't hear the words.

About whether the movie is feminist or not, it has nothing to do with passing the Bechdel test. Other than that, at first I thought it was crazy to see feminism in Ex Machina, but well... The girl does defeat the bad man and break free (and probably conquer the world after the credits roll). Kinda empowering, I guess?

The films passes 2 out of 3.
Message posted on 2015-08-24 01:03:17
Ian Cooper disagreed with the rating and said:
This movie proves that the Bechdel test needs to be reworded to say that the two characters are "considered to be female" or "treated as female". I think it's very telling that a movie that deals with the whole idea of men having control over entities that are considered to be female, and that has those entities speaking to one another about issues other than a man cannot be considered to pass the test.
Message posted on 2015-09-14 13:40:18
DavidEGrayson disagreed with the rating and said:
This movie passes the Bechdel test. Most of the points I will make here have already been made by other commenters, but here is a good summary of why it passes:

1) There are two named women: Ava and Kyoko. Ava and Kyoko are definitely women, in the same way that transgendered women with the XY chromosomes are women. Every conscious being has the right to decide if they are a woman or a man; that's what people have been fighting for for decades and it's time to accept it.

2) When Ava sees Kyoko, she audibly says "Who are you?". Kyoko cannot talk back, but we can see that there is definitely a relationship between the two characters. SPOILER: they share an intimiate moment after the escape, and Kyoko saves Ava by stabbing Nathan. I think that the stabbing is a pretty good reply, and it can be substitute for actual words.

3) The third part of the test also passes, because Ava's question to Kyoko was not about a man.

But let's also look beyond the rules. I agree with Tom, who said the film "contains quite a nuanced view of gender dynamics and explores them in quite a feminist way". See his comment from 2015-05-16 for more information. Also, the ending of the movie makes it very clear that Ava is independent and strong, and doesn't need a man.

This rating should be changed to a 3!
Message posted on 2015-10-18 04:03:18
Dauoo said:
The rating is correct. Yes, this is a great film, but it does fall short of this test just like a lot of other great films. The 2 women did not talk to each, they are women because the actresses playing the roles are women, and the 2 male characters definitely have conversation about other things besides the AI. Also, the women in the movie are highly sexualized.
Message posted on 2015-11-01 10:06:42
Ste-Quao Dottirsson said:
I agree that it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test in the strictest sense, but we have to remember that the Bechdel Test is not the be-all and end-all of feminism in film. Some films which pass the Bechdel Test are questionable feministically and others which don't pass are actually more feminist.

Ex Machina definitely contains feminist themes. Yes, the characters are robots (strictly "gynoids"), but they represent women, and that is the whole point, not whether they are actual women or not. Fiction is used to tell a story and the narrative was definitely feminist in the sense that the film was an allegory for the female struggle. If it were just about robots and not women, there would have been no need to gender the droids at all, they could have been androids or gender-less droids instead of specifically gynoids. Also, the male characters represent different aspects of the patriarchy; Nathan represents the patriarchy itself, and Caleb represents well-meaning "male allies".

The film is definitely worth watching, and even though the narrow Bechdel Test isn't passed, the narrative can be interpreted in many ways and the themes contained within make it a must-watch for anyone studying intersectional feminism.
Message posted on 2015-12-26 10:36:41
mixelle said:
Male to transgendered are men playing at femininity. So the question to ask is, are these robots created by men to imitate women? Does that make them female, with ovaries, a uterus, and a sense of being oppressed their entire lives?
Message posted on 2015-12-26 16:57:02
TheKeenGuy disagreed with the rating and said:
To confirm what has been pointed out already, from pg. 85 of the screenplay:

"KYOKO stands in the door-frame.

For a moment, the two look at each other.

... Who are you?"

Bechdel Test passed.
Message posted on 2016-01-13 00:20:59
Lucifer said:
@TheKeenGuy: Does that qualify as talking to each other? Sounds more like one talking to the other.
Message posted on 2016-01-13 21:28:34
William said:
@TheKeenGuy Test failed. 2. Who talk to each other. Person A speaking to person B with no reply is talk at someone, not talking with someone. Much like you may never see this replay directed at you, thus I am talking at you, not with you.
Message posted on 2016-05-15 22:19:17
Spanner said:
It squeaks through all 3 requirements. As someone said, narratively speaking, the AIs qualify as women. They clearly have names. They “converse” in the sense that the AIs have an interaction that is not limited to the flattery of, or the arguing about, or complaining of, or otherwise further fleshing out of the male characters or their relationship to said male characters, but that does minimally further their own (the females’) character development and their relationship to each other as characters. I’m more or less satisfied with this interpretation.

This film was all that a good film should be, technically and artistically. Yes I would say it was even a great film.

It was categorically not a feminist film, though my opinion seems to be a minority. It does not centre the experiences of women or trans or non-binary individuals, or really explore their concerns. The real-world freedom attained at the end by Ava is only possible because of her inhumanity and her (unguessable) decisions here-on-out are so vague that it seems that where her life as a dull pretty looking woman presumably begins, and that of the male characters ends, the movie ends, and everything interesting is over.

Also, the tropes are pretty hard to see past. And the supremacy of male gaze.

I hope Ex Machina will seem as antiquated as Hitchcock era movies one day, which is not to say it’s not good of course!

(And what would I, the haughty, consider a feminist movie? The fact I’m critiqueing a 2015 movie is about as long since I watched any... I’ll get back up you)
Message posted on 2021-04-20 12:12:17

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