Home Arts & Entertainment “The Bechdel Cast:” Analyzing the Portrayal of Women in Movies

“The Bechdel Cast:” Analyzing the Portrayal of Women in Movies

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The Bechdel Cast podcast logo illustrated by Jamie Loftus.

By Angelina Jahn

Wife, mother, daughter. Each week on “The Bechdel Cast” podcast, comedians Jaime Loftus, Caitlin Durante and a guest dissect the portrayal of women in movies. Over the course of 231 episodes, each focused on a different movie, few have managed to portray women realistically, and not in their relation to the movie’s male characters.

The podcast is based upon The Bechdel Test, created by artist Alison Bechdel in 1985. The test requires that a movie feature two women who speak to each other about something other than a man, additionally requiring that these two women be named and speak to each other for more than two lines of dialogue. Durante and Loftus use the test as a way to begin their conversation on how a film treats its female characters. The two hosts and their guest that week conclude the episode by rating the movie on a scale of one through five based upon their discussion.

Launched in 2016, “The Bechdel Cast” has covered a wide variety of movies, ranging from “Die Hard,” to “Flubber,” to “Moana” (the first film to receive five stars across the board). The podcast covers all film genres and presents the subject matter in an easily digestible manner thanks to the humorous rapport between the two hosts.

Over the span of the last five years, the podcast has grown and evolved as the two hosts have become more educated on social issues. This past year, they’ve developed their version of The Bechdel Test to mean that any named characters of a marginalized gender must speak to each other for more than two lines of dialogue, and this dialogue must have an impact upon the plot. This avoids rewarding films for including characters of any marginalized gender, who, when removed, would have no impact on the story. This also opens up the conversation to be more inclusive of other marginalized genders.

Last November, podcast guest, artist Jess Murwin, brought the movie “Rhymes for Young Ghouls” to discuss on an episode. The film tells the story of a Native American teenager in 1976, who is plotting revenge against the Indian Agent who forced her into an abusive residential school. This film inspired writer Ali Nahdee to create the Aila Test, named after the film’s main character. To pass the Aila Test, a movie must feature an Indigenous woman as the main character, who does not fall in love with a white man or get assaulted at any point in the film.

With Women’s History Month in the rearview mirror, The Bechdel Test is a helpful tool in keeping the conversation going all year long. Media is reflective of society’s views and reinforces and influences the way we see ourselves and each other. It’s important to challenge the ways in which films underrepresent, and wrongly represent women and other marginalized genders.

“The Bechdel Cast” is available to listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iheartradio and Stitcher.

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