Justice

Here's What Happens When Only Men Write Movies

January 14th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

Polygraph, a data and visual storytelling site, just examined which top 200 grossing films of the past 20 years pass Bechdel Test, which requires a movie to have at least two women in it and talk to each other about something other than a male. Cartoonist Alison Bechdel created the test, which many people reference in pop culture and use to determine whether a film contains feminist themes.

"My Best Friend's Wedding," for example, failed the Bechdel Test, as the plot is entirely about Julia Roberts' character trying to steal another woman's fiance:

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The publication found that male-only film writing teams fail the Bechdel Test half the time. Movies with at least one female writer pass the test more than half the time, and the seven films written by only women pass the Bechdel Test.

Which highest grossing films of the past 20 years pass the Bechdel Test?

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From 1995 to 2015, the only top grossing films to pass the Bechdel Test were the "Twilight" flicks, "Mamma Mia!," "Casper," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and "Fifty Shades of Grey," all of which were written only by women. As Fusion writer Kelsey McKinney pointed out though, "Fifty Shades" only passes the test because main character Anastasia talks to her mom about college graduation and discusses her broken laptop with her roommate. Much of the film, however, revolves around Anastasia's complicated relationship with a wealthy businessman named Christian Grey.

"Twilight" is also mainly focused on main character Bella Swan's relationship with vampire Edward Cullen, and "Mamma Mia!" is all about a young girl trying to learn her father's identity by meeting with the men her mother slept with prior to her birth.

The Bechdel Test on a larger scale.

To include a larger sample of films, Polygraph also posted a graph showing Bechdel Test data from 4,000 movies. Of the bigger sample, nearly half of the flicks written by all men failed the Bechdel Test:

Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is necessary because it calls out filmmakers and screenwriters for perpetuating stereotypes that women are only interested in talking about men.

"When women are not visible on-screen, we reinforce stereotypes off-screen," Polygraph writers Lyle Friedman, Matt Daniels, and Ilia Blinderman wrote. "Hollywood is promoting a culture of female invisibility, where women can’t save the planet, win the big game, or fight the bad... wait for it... guy. Instead, they’re props who can only gab about men."

The Polygraph image surfaced at the same time as the 88th Academy Awards nominations were announced. Once again, the Academy was heavily criticized for ignoring people of color in the nominations. Women were also overlooked in the nominations. While the Academy nominated more women writers this year, none of the films nominated for Best Picture were directed by women. "Room" was the only film nominated for Best Picture that was also written by a female.

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