The almighty recommendation algorithm works in mysterious ways, and not always for the best. If your Netflix homepage has become an echo chamber, a little change in perspective could help you find your new favourite movie.
Most people are probably familiar with the Bechdel Test, an interpretation of a 1985 Alison Bechdel comic titled “The Rule”. It’s pretty simple: If a movie has two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man, it passes.
Though more stipulations have been added over the last 33 years — the women should have names, for one — the basic gist remains the same. It sets the bar unbelievably low, but a shocking number of mainstream films still can’t manage to clear it — which makes the Bechdel Test a great way to find movies you might have missed otherwise.
In the latest episode of Rick & Morty alternative The Simpsons, guest star Alison Bechdel describes her famous Bechdel test for films. Do two female characters have at least one conversation that's not about a man? Marge immediately brings up Homer, provoking Bechdel's FAIL animation, shown here in handy exploitable form.
Netflix recently tweeted a list of titles in their catalogue that pass the Bechdel test, and it’s as good a place to start as any. There’s something for everyone: Emotional period dramas (Mudbound), iconic ensemble comedies (Wet Hot American Summer), delightful romantic comedies (Set It Up) and some bloody action (Kill Bill). Another Netflix offering I feel is worth a mention is Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette special.
I’m not saying a film has to pass the Bechdel Test to be good, great, or even worth your time; after all, most great movies and TV shows fail it spectacularly. It’s just one useful, if imperfect, way to challenge dominant narratives in film and television, which are overwhelmingly male.
The next time you’re looking for a Saturday night flick, try one that passes the Bechdel Test — you might just love it.