The Bechdel Test, established in 1985 by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel and her friend Liz Wallace, is a way of examining movies for gender bias. The test poses three questions: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if so, do they discuss something other than a man?
Bechdel, incidentally, is the author of Fun Home, one of my all-time favorite books. She's also an old college buddy of Kathleen Finneran, the author of The Tender Land, which may be my absolute favorite book of all time.
In any case, I found the idea and the simplicity of this test striking. It occurred to me that none of the books I teach to my freshmen would pass: The Odyssey, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Huck Finn, or Romeo and Juliet. (Not to mention O Brother, Where Art Thou?).
It's startling to realize not only how many movies, but also how much of classic literature fails to pass this test.
Must give this issue more thought.