How Many Superhero Movies Pass The Bechdel Test? [Infographic]

How Many Superhero Movies Pass The Bechdel Test? [Infographic]

DC Films’ upcoming Wonder Woman has been billed as the world’s first solo female superhero movie. In reality, there have been several, including Elektra in 2005, Catwoman in 2004 and, er, Supergirl in 1984. (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Wonder Woman is the first female superhero film that has a chance of being any good?)

In any event, it can’t be denied that the superhero genre has been a bit of a sausage fest in recent years. This infographic applies the “Bechdel Test” to 52 superhero films from Marvel and DC. Who comes out on top?

The Bechdel test (AKA Bechdel–Wallace test) attempts to uncover sexism or gender imbalance in fiction by asking two simple questions:

  1. do two (named) female characters talk to each other?
  2. do they talk about something other than a male character?

To pass the Bechdel test, a work of fiction must fulfil the above criteria at least once. Needless to say, a lot of superhero movies fail the test.

Doubtlessly many (men) would argue that this is entirely natural given that superhero movies are predominantly marketed at boys and star male actors. While this may have been true a few decades ago, the current crop of superhero films are clearly aimed at both genders and feature multiple female protagonists: so this argument doesn’t really fly.

The infographic below was painstakingly compiled by the party event organiser Twizzle. It pitches the filmography of Marvel against its DC counterpart in a bid to see which brand is the most woman friendly.

As you can see, Marvel just edges out DC in the Bechdel stakes but they both performed pretty dismally – with just 48 per cent of movies passing the test. It’s also worth noting that the included DC movies go all the way back to 1966, whereas the Marvel side starts at 2010. In other words, Marvel really should have done a lot better.

[Via Twizzle]


  • Kickass was Marvel? well the more you know

    I don’t see a problem with Marvel tbh, in the context of the individual movie, the story they wanted to tell didn’t involve female characters, just shoving in female characters for the sake of it is worse then just not having any .

    Sure, you can argue that Marvel should have made more female super heroes for the big screen but that’s not really the point here.

    • Kickass was published by Marvel although it’s not set in the Marvel universe.

      The Bechdel test certainly isn’t indicative of a film’s overall quality – but failure does suggest the filmmakers weren’t particularly interested in having layered female characters in their movie.

      • ah i see, well I learn something new regardless haha

        I suppose as someone that is neither a writer nor particularly creative, I can’t really imagine say Captain America: The First Avenger having 2 named female characters interacting. I’m sure if the movie was made and pass the test I’d be able to judge how effective it was in its story telling

        • I was thinking the same. Deadpool has 3 female characters that are key to the movie, and while they dont talk to each other, thats the nature of the plot and characters rather than them being token females.

          I wouldnt call Peggy Carter token either, but off the top of my head I cant really think of any other significant female characters in First Avenger. Certainly none that match Angel Dust and Negasonic from Deadpool.

  • Seen recently in my twitterstream:

    “Mixed up the Bechdel Test with the Turing test. Now what am I supposed to do with all these feminist robots?”

      • But as I am no man, they might be.

        Ergh — Mean Girls robots. What have I done? 🙂

        • Actually, I was implying that trite, meaningless chatter technically passes the Bechdel test, while reinforcing negative female stereotypes.

          Think of Black Widow and Scarlet Witch discussing shoes, or how to get bloodstains out of clothes. Imagine the (male) audience reaction.

          • The Bechtel test was never about quality; just inclusion. There are some truly crappy films that pass it, and some great ones that don’t.

            The shoe thing might be good, if done right:

            “Natasha, is it true you can kill a person with a stiletto heel?”
            “Oh yes. I recommend Blahniks. What do you do is, you hold it like this … “

  • A better analysis would have been to break the categories down by studio. Sure, Marvel shows up as a mixed bag, but they sold the rights to many of their characters, so calling them Marvel movies at this point is disingenuous. Too, the list from both sides is incomplete, but if there is going to be an arbitrary cut off, why not go with 1985, when Dykes to Watch Out For was first published?

    Interesting idea but weak analysis.

  • Part of the problem might be the long comic book history they’re drawing on, which hasn’t had many female characters to translate to the big screen. In other words, this might just be an echo of the source material, from slightly earlier times, also failing the test. Which is not to say that they couldn’t bring in new characters to even out the gender imbalance.
    Caveat: I am not much of a comic book reader, so I might not know what I’m talking about.

  • Uh, who actually cares? Can’t we just enjoy a movie without worrying about silly things?

    • The point is that the Bechdel test is a ridiculously low bar to hit, and something that a writer could work around for 99% of all scripts. Practically by definition, it means most female characters are one-dimensional and that the story could be improved by having their females made out of something thicker than cardboard.

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