In film, women are often reduced to stereotype, fulfilling the role of wife, girlfriend or sex-object to men whose lives and relationships drive the plot. Recent statistics however, suggest that this is changing, that more and more screenwriters are bringing strong female figures to our screens. Indeed, it is time that the film world take interest in the complexities of womanhood and, instead of resorting to easy stereotype, tell it like it is.
The following list ranks the top films of 2013 that passed the Bechdel test according to their US box office grossing from lowest to highest.
The Bechdel test ranks a film as gender-equal if it involves at least two named women that speak to one another about something other than a man. These criteria seem basic and easily met. However, the Bechdel test has revealed just how many films fail to meet even this low level of female representation. The Bechdel test owes its name to Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist whose 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For pointed its finger at the fact that so few films touch on female 'sociality', that is to say on forms of social bonding between women.
News website Voactiv reveals that only half of the top-grossing films of 2013 passed the Bechdel test - and some of them dubiously. Films that passed the test earned a total of $4.22 billion in the U.S., and the ones that failed a total of $2.66 billion. Putting forward this marked difference in film grossings highlights the success of female presence onscreen, and perhaps will be an incentive for Hollywood to bring more women in significant fictional roles to our screens.
It is an activist provocation that works. Many Swedish cinemas have even begun making audiences aware of whether the films they are screening pass the Bechdel test or not. Our list examines the female interactions in each film, exploring whether these women develop into pro-feminist figures beyond the basic interactions that the Bechdel test requests.
10 G.I. Joe: Retaliation - $123 million
9 The Conjuring - $137 million
8 We're the Millers - $150 million
7 The Heat - $160 million
6 Fast and Furious 6 - $239 million
5 Frozen - $248 million
4 Oz the Great and Powerful - $235 million
3 Man of Steel - $291 million
2 Despicable Me 2 - $368 million
1 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $391 million
Frances Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, based on the dystopian books by Suzanne Collins, brings into play a large number of female characters that interact over a wide diversity of matters unrelated to men. Scenes of friendship, family, and mutual enrichment make this film a model example for Bechdel test success. Katniss Everdeen, the female lead, is a self-reliant, intelligent female capable of romance without compromising herself. Unshackled to society's expectations of women, she presents a female ideal that does justice to womankind.
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