Could 50 Shades of Grey actually be the most feminist movie of 2015? Well, it passed the Bechdel test…
It’s been criticised for glamorising domestic violence and on the question of whether it promotes female empowerment, the audience is well and truly divided. But 50 Shades of Grey has actually passed a very simple feminist test that most major blockbusters fail to meet.
It’s called the Bechdel test and it’s used as a very simple way to gauge whether a film includes well rounded and complete female roles. The criteria is straightforward, the film should have (1) at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other (3) about something besides a man.
Most films would surely meet that criteria, right? Wrong.
You would be quite surprised to know just how many of your favourite movies do fail to adequately represent the complex and interesting lives of women. Out of over 5,500 movies logged, just over half pass the test.
More often than not, women are represented as one-dimensional characters who are relevant only to the plot when they’re connected to or speaking about a man. Or they’re not represented at all.
So how did 50 Shades manage to pass when it’s a story about a woman smitten with a man who wants to choke, beat and control her?
Well, the movie has around four female characters including the lead, Ana Steele – the woman who falls for Christian Grey. Ana manages to talk to her roommate, her mother and Christian’s mum about topics that don’t revolve around a man. These include conversations about Ana’s studies and, um, making sandwiches. Hmmmm.
By no means does the Bechdel test comprehensively look into whether a film is truly about female empowerment. After all, Gravity a film that follows a female astronaut with no love interest fighting to survive on her own in space, fails the test. Because she’s the only female character in the film.