When Films Don’t Pass the Reverse Bechdel Test

February 12th, 2019

With all this talk about PASSING THE BECHDEL TEST and the implied stigma attached to films that don’t, has anyone stopped to consider what films don’t pass the Reverse Bechdel Test and the consequent repercussions therein?

I’d be willing to guess screenwriter ABI MORGAN has. After all, she penned the screenplay for SUFFRAGETTE, a rare film devoid of any single instance where two male characters speak with one another about any topic other than women. None too surprisingly, there were indeed repercussions, according to Morgan: “It was very hard to get men on board,” she says in reference to casting name actors. “It was amusing because the general perception was, the parts aren’t big enough, and they [the male characters] aren’t really doing enough, they were [just] the husband. As we say, welcome to the world of actresses.”

What a sad state of affairs, not to mention an egregious missed opportunity. It’s bad enough studio heads and major producers have only recently begun to consider that OVER HALF OF ALL BOX OFFICE PROFITS HAIL FROM FEMALE SPECTATORS, and therefore, maybe (just maybe) it’s wise to tell stories that might actually appeal to their most loyal customers. But we’ve come to expect such myopia from their type. After all, they’re the ones who thought MONSTER TRUCKS and yet another TRANSFORMERS movie were good ideas. Clearly, those folks are out of touch.

But big name actors, presumably artists, are the ones who are supposed to keep their souls intact—to be in it for the craft, the storytelling, the real movie magic. Maybe even to make a difference. They are also the ones coming out in droves these days, trying desperately to say the right thing in light of the #metoo movement, trying to let women know, “Hey, I’m not one of the bad guys.”

If that’s so, I’d like to remind them that just because you’re not sexually assaulting a woman or enabling somebody else to, doesn’t mean you’re not still part of the problem that’s created this toxic environment. Name stars, especially big male name stars, have a LOT of clout. So, why not put their money where their mouths are and support their non-fellow thespians? And while they’re at it, why not likewise support their sisters, mothers and daughters who are sick and tired of this perpetual cinematic sausage party that’s been foisted upon us at every turn?

Just sayin’.

Both male and female thespians, just like both male and female spectators have the power to make positive change. The former can demand better roles and storytelling or refuse to accept the part, and the latter can stop handing over their hard-earned cash to pay those who fail to do so. If we stopped focusing on our individual baskings in the spotlight and worked together for the greater cause, maybe the old adage about how there are no small roles would become a reality—on screen and in real life.

Next up: When Boys Write Girls — A Lesson In Gender Appropriation




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