At least two female characters. who talk to each other. Something other than a man. That’s not so much to ask, is it?
This is the premise of the Bechdel test. A useful measure of the representation of women in the media, it is attributed to American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in whose 1985 comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” she first appeared. “I have this rule, you see… I only go to the cinema if it meets three basic requirements. One, there must be at least two women in it who, two, talk to each other about, three, something other than a man,” says Mo, a lesbian comic book heroine.
After gaining popularity for its simplicity, the critique was applied to what was the very male-dominated film industry of the 1980s and has been used as a litmus test of gender equality in the industry ever since. cinematographic.
Some would argue that movies and gender equality have come a long way since the 1980s. In the past 40 years, the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, has been appointed to the United States Supreme Court; Sally Ride became the first American woman in space; the Guerilla Girls took the cause to the Met; Junko Tabei has climbed the Seven Summits; the Take Back the Night Foundation was born; Rwanda became the first country with a majority female legislature; the driving ban on Saudi women was lifted; #MeToo happened, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize; and the very first woman won the Best Director Oscar.
Even before COVID-19 arrived, when progress was certainly underway, gender inequality was rampant. But the pandemic has set gender equality back “a generation”. In almost all settings, women have fared less well during the pandemic – women have lost their jobs at a higher rate, faced greater barriers to accessing help, and faced increased gender-based violence (GBV). Today, approximately $400 million is needed to fight girl poverty and reach millions of young women in immediate need. Join us in urging world leaders to invest in girls’ empowerment now here.
The world of cinema returns this inequality to us, with many films still not meeting the Bechdel standard (a little less than half of all films according to the database edited by users).
On the face of it, romantic comedy isn’t a genre that seems to fit Bechdel’s bill. But a number of romantic comedies meet the criteria. From closeted lesbians to aspiring playwrights and mothers to besties, three-dimensional female characters exist and have meaningful exchanges with their equally distinct and believable female peers.
Here are 11 romantic comedies from around the world that pass the Bechdel test.
1. “Happiest Season” (USA, 2020)
Kicking things off is The happiest seasona film from the massively misunderstood lesbian romantic comedy subgenre (there are painfully few).
Written and directed by Clea DuVall, it stars Kristen Stewart (Abby) and Mackenzie Davis (Harper) as the main love interests. Harper takes Abby home to meet her conservative family over Christmas, but reveals to Abby on the way that she hasn’t dated her loved ones yet. Harper asks Abby to pretend to be her “brave orphan friend”, to which Abby reluctantly agrees.
The painfully relatable closed girlfriend experience is marked by queer pop Christmas tunes from Sia and her sisters Tegan and Sara.
2. ‘Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging’ (UK, 2008)
Angus, Strings and Perfect Snogging follows Georgia and her friends, Jas, Ellen and Rosie as they navigate teenage life on the south east coast of England. Yes, “boy issues” are discussed. But the film is also a field guide to the peculiar inner workings of a teenage girl’s mind.
3. “Crazy Rich Asians” (USA, 2018)
With the dazzling backdrop of Singapore’s 1%, boobies rich asian dives into what family and tradition really mean, and how (spoiler-free) love conquers all.
The film, which topped the box office in its first weekend, was celebrated for its three-dimensional characters, providing meaty roles for Asian and Asian-American actors who remain underrepresented in Hollywood. In fact, they only accounted for 4.5% of the leads or co-leads in the 10 highest-grossing American films from 2010 to 2019.
4. “Happiness is a four-letter word” (South Africa, 2016)
Based on the novel of the same name by Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Happiness is a four letter word is a heartwarming romantic drama that tells the story of three friends – a glamorous housewife, a lawyer and an art gallery owner – trying to find happiness in South Africa.
With its glorious thematic treatment of brotherhood and friendship, the film was a box office success in its home country and Netflix even announced that a sequel is on the horizon.
5. “How to be single” (USA, 2016)
Based on the bestselling novel about modern dating and relationships by Liz Tuccillo, how to be single gives a 101 on how to have fun as a single woman living in the big apple.
At first, Alice (Dakota Johnson), gazing into the abyss of a life of monogamy, suggests to her longtime boyfriend Josh that they should see what it’s like to date other people. She then moves to New York to work as a paralegal and meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), who is confident and promiscuous in equal measure. Robin takes Alice under his wing to teach her how to be single and hilarity ensues.
6. ‘Amelie’ (France, 2001)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s magical romantic comedy propelled French actress Audrey Tautou into the stratosphere with its unique plot and distinctive visual universe that influenced more than a decade of directors.
Amélie is the definition of an offbeat and anything but hollow character. She grew up with a “suicidal fish” that jumped out of its bowl. She allows her father to live out his dreams of world travel vicariously by stealing his garden gnome and sending Polaroids of the ornament back to various tourist spots. She retrieves the key to the evil grocer’s apartment and replaces her toothpaste with foot cream. And, of course, she falls in love with an equally eccentric character.
Although Amelie passes the Bechdel test by a hair, thanks to a few brief dialogues with other named women, one can’t help but wonder how the film could have been improved if Amélie had had a close friend.
7. “Half” (US, 2020)
Ellie Chu is a shy, straight Chinese-American college student who struggles to write other students’ school papers – a gig that lands her writing a love letter for high school jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) to his secret crush, Aster (Alexxis Lemire). An epistolary romance ensues between Aster and Ellie through the vessel of romantic inept, Paul.
This makes it a contemporary and bizarre take on the French play Cyrano de Bergerac.
The film knowingly nods to the traditional emptiness of female characters when Ellie asks Paul what he likes about Aster. “She’s pretty and she’s smart,” he replies.
Indeed, Aster is the most subscribed character in the film and so although the film passes the Bechdel, it only does so by the skin of its teeth.
8. ‘Sounds Like Love’ (Spain, 2021)
Fashion assistant Maca has just put the pieces of her life back together after a car accident or a breakup, when the man who tore her heart to shreds reappears (isn’t that always the case?).
Directed by Joanna Macias, looks like love is a Flea bag-esque Spanish romantic comedy in which the character of Maca is explored through his frequent asides in front of the camera. The fact that she also has two fabulous best friends whose eccentricities and dry wits are among the best parts of the movie, ensures that this one passes the test.
9. ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ (India, 2015)
Angry Indian Goddesses follows a group of seven women: Frieda, a photographer, invites her college friends to her family’s home in Goa. The eclectic group of pals all have different personalities, jobs and interests – hooray!
This Bollywood banger takes an in-depth look at what the fight against gender inequality looks like in their respective worlds, from the macho male-dominated film industry to boardroom misogyny.
10. “The Incredible Jessica James” (USA, 2017)
With women’s empowerment at its heart, The Incredible Jessica James features conversations about vibrators, sexuality, the patriarchal paradigm, and more, between aspiring and newly single playwright Jessica James and her best friend Tasha.
Starting at the end of a relationship rather than its beginning, Sundance’s hit eschews the banality of your average romcom in a refreshing way. Spoiler: The film also ends with Jessica choosing her friends over a man as she heads to London for new opportunities.
11. “Fifty” (Nigeria, 2015)
Fifty is a Bechdel triumph not only because it delves into the lives, work and romance of four strong women, but also because these women are approaching their fifties – a time in a woman’s life that hardly ever appears. in the movie.
Living in Lagos, Tolu, Maria, Kate and Elizabeth each live overlapping lives. Tolu is a reality TV star with a tattered marriage; Maria has an affair with a married man that leads to an unwanted pregnancy; Kate suffers from a life-threatening illness; and Elizabeth is an obstetrician with a fondness for toyboys.
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