About four years ago, I first heard about the Bechdel test and didn't really understand what it was because I couldn't find a straight answer. I contacted a good friend of mine about it as she helped me become a feminist in the first place and she is usually very happy answering my questions.
The way she described it to me was that it's basically a test to show whether or not women in movies talk about anything else other then a man. The point being to show the general indicator of how much women are treated in film as tools or rewards for the men and plot rather character as their own right, similar to the women in refrigerators trope.
However, she also told me the test is supposed to be used as general indicator rather then used for individual movies. The reason being is that the test by itself doesn't say anything on whether or not the film is sexist or not. For example film like Terminator 2 fails yet a film like Twilight passes. This is due to the test not taking to account factors such as importance of the dialogue, the plot, characters etc. This is similar to BMI,
This is how I saw it for years.
However I keep noticing sites, both feminists and sexists using the test for individual films rather then a general examination. The biggest case of this I've seen was last year with Pacific Rim where were arguing about that film failing despite having one of the most strongest female characters in that years blockbusters. At the time I thought It was non issue as the test doesn't say the film is sexist(bit could be used as a warning sign), just that it doesn't pass the test.
But more and more I see the test being used and argued about for individual films such as the marvel films and gravity or asking which Oscar films pass the test. I see feminist blogs and sites I go to and trust calling it the sexist test and all films should pass despite from my understanding is that many sexist films pass it and that ignores all the times when that can be impossible, feminist or otherwise. The Bechdel test website shows all the films individually and I can see no general indicator (if I'm wrong about that please tell me).
Was I misinformed about the test? Is it suppose to be used individually and not used as a general indicator? If it is supposed to be individually, can't that be potentially be dangerous. After all couldn't a writer just have two women talk about not important and go, "well that me done and off the hook" and use them as tool and rewards for the rest of film? Couldn't only restricting yourself to films that pass a single test also be a bad thing as you will be missing out on great feminist works that because other any reason? I'm so confused.
Also, please call me out if I've been sexist. I've been thinking for a long time now on whether or not I should post this because I didn't know if it was a stupid question.