- There are two or more named female characters
- Who at some point talk to each other
- About something other than a man
This has become a pretty popular measure amongst feminists and media critics because it's easily quantifiable, and when you think about it, it's stunning how many movies don't pass. Now it's no guarantee that a movie is good, or even a good portrayal of women if it does pass, nor is the reverse true if it fails. However, I think there's a lot to be taken from the measure in terms of the presence, importance, and agency assigned to female characters.
That said, not everybody agrees. The counter argument is that a movie is a tight form without a lot of room for superfluous information (which is fair and true), and all the characters who are not main characters will suffer for it in terms of characterization. That's where the Reverse Bechdel comes in. I polled my friends and acquaintances for movies that do not pass a reverse of the rules above, that is:
- at least two named male characters
- who talk to each other at some point
- about something other than a woman.
If the movie is about a woman and her relationships, will men occupy the same ancillary role? Will they have agency, interests, and relationships outside of their orbit around the main female character?
I figure it's the kind of question I can answer late at night if I come home and am too tired from work to write.
Here's our list of potentially reverse bechdel failing movies so far (please feel free to add in the comments if you have any more):
- Antonia's Line
- Bridges of Madison County
- Boys on the Side
- Calendar Girls
- The Craft
- Death Becomes Her
- Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
- Driving Miss Daisy
- First Wives' Club
- For the Boys
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Ginger Snaps
- Julie and Julia
- League of Their Own
- Mean Girls
- Princess Mononoke
- The Ring
- Steel Magnolias
- Spirited Away
- Sucker Punch
- Thelma and Louise
- The Women
- Working Girl
We'll see how it shakes out.