1. There must be two or more women in it
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man.
Some variants include the stipulation that the women have names. Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? It’s much tougher than it sounds. I don’t actually use the rule to determine what I watch (and there is a lot of worthy film-making that violates the rule), but I do think it addresses a crucial gap in the media representation of gender. Think about it. Think about the last three movies you watched, or look at the Oscar nominees from past years, or kids movies, and ask yourself if the only women in it are tokens, or exist only to talk about the male character. When you start to think about it, it really is amazing how many movies act as if women either don’t exist, or exist only as sex objects. One in a while something surprising comes along, for example Resident Evil: Extinction passed the Bechdel test, but for the most part women have just gotten used to not seeing themselves in film.
Here’s a list of every Pixar film:
Toy Story – two females (the mom and Bo Peep) never talk to each other
A Bug’s Life – three females (Dot, princess Atta, the Queen), they do talk to each other, I don’t remember what about. Edit: A reader has pointed out that they talk about things other than men. So this one passes!
Toy Story 2 – two females (Bo Peep, Jessie) They talk to each other, about the male characters
Monster’s Inc – two females (Boo and Celia), they never talk to each other
Finding Nemo – one female (Dory)
The Incredibles – three females (Helen, Violet, Edna), they do talk to each other, about something other than males (family and clothes)
Cars – two females (Sally and Flo) Do they talk to each other? I don’t know.
Ratatouille – One female (Collette)
Using the list of characters on the wikipedia pages (which includes minor characters) for these movies we come up with a male to female ratio of: 77:30. That comes out to 29% female characters in Pixar films. The worst offender is Ratatouille with a ratio of 13:1, and the best is The Incredibles with a ratio of 1:1. Not one of the 8 movies features a woman as the primary lead character (with the possible exception of The Incredibles, which features the whole family).
Let’s keep this in perspective: children’s movies have fewer than 30% female characters. These are movies which are especially made to be inoffensive and identifiable to many kids. How much worse must adult movies be? Next time you watch a movie, think about it. If you find one that follows the rules, or one that egregiously violates them, let me know!