Little bit more on the Bechdel-Wallace test

Several people seem to think that any book or movie that does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test is therefore evil and wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can think of lots of wonderful movies and books that do not pass. The point is not about individual books or films, it’s about the bigger picture, which is that we live in a world where very few movies pass.

If things were more even if, say, even thirty per cent of mainstream movies dealt with female experiences, then there’d be no need for such a test. But we’re no where near that.

However, I can tell you right now that YA as a whole is doing absolutely fine. The whole genre aces the test. I’m looking at my YA bookshelves and have come across only one book so far that doesn’t pass: Octavian Nothing. And you know what? It passes a gazillion other tests, such as being brilliant and having zero suckatude.

So stop beating yourself up because your YA novel doesn’t pass or because your favourite manga doesn’t pass. Write what you want to write! Enjoy what you want to enjoy!

The fact that The Middleman passes is one of the many things I love about it; that The Wire mostly fails does not make it any less brilliant.


  1. Serafina Zane on #

    That’s the thing about it—some stories just don’t have a lot of female characters. But the fact that as it is, these are the only stories getting told means that other ones should get told first. If there wasn’t such a majority, it could be judged on a “that’s part of the story” basis. But, alas, there is a huge majority.

  2. Rebecca on #

    The point is not about individual books or films, it’s about the bigger picture, which is that we live in a world where very few movies pass.

    Thank you! I’ve been blogging and discussing this with a lot of people lately, and that sums up exactly what I’ve been trying to say. I’m not concerned with individual shows failing; I’m angry and saddened that so many individual shows (movies, etc) fail that pop culture oddly devoid of influential or interesting women.

    That so many YA novels pass is a huge part of why I read YA as an adult.

  3. Desdemona on #

    The Princess Bride doesn’t pass and it’s the best movie on the planet. Ever. (Actually no. But it is one of my favorites)

  4. Ted Lemon on #

    Not to make light of the actual topic, which I think is quite telling, but every time you bring this up I think of the Voight-Kampff test. I’m not sure what that means…

  5. pixelfish on #

    One of my favs, Lawrence of Arabia, doesn’t pass it either, I don’t think. I think there’s like a female nurse from a mission in one scene near the end, and I think that’s about it for female screen presence in that movie.

  6. cbjames on #

    I’m sitting her wracking my brain trying to think of a scene in The Wire with two women talking but not about men. I can only come up with the Lesbian detective and her partner, who really wasn’t in the series that much.

    There were plenty of women in the series, but I can’t think of them interacting. Just the detective and the D.A. characters once in a while. Why not have two women reporters in the newspaper section? Surely there could have been two women in the middle school section. Why focus on four boys that year and not four girls?

    Does this make it less brilliant? You know, I think it does. It’s still brilliant, but can it claim to present a thorough picture of urban America, which many say it does, when it doesn’t feature enough women to regularly show them talking to eachother?

    It reminds me of people who say J.R.R. Tolkien created a world when he wrote his Middle Earth books. I always say, sure, a world with almost no women in it, but still, a world.

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