So this is a thing—a thing that you, as a writer, should know about. According to Wikipedia:
The Bechdel Test, credited to Liz Wallace, was introduced in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule,” an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: (1) It has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man.
People thought this was funny because it was sort of a true critique of Hollywood.
Then they thought, “Wow. If this is true critique, that’s pretty messed up.”
Thus the “Bechdel Test” was born as a sort of litmus test to find out how much Hollywood directors really cared about their female characters.
To pass the Bechdel Test, a movie:
- Has to have at least two women
- Who talk to each other
- About something besides a man
It seems simple, and yet it’s surprisingly difficult for Hollywood films to pass this test.
In my humble opinion, all writers—screenwriters, novelists, short story writers—should be aware of the Bechdel Test and its implications… not because we shouldn’t have scenes where two women talk about a man, but because holding the test and its implications in mind can possibly free up more dramatic potential for scenes and avoid cliche.
Think about the opening scene for Swingers, for example, which is dramatic gold. The reason? It’s the opposite of the trope the Bechdel Test critiques, i.e., it’s unusual for two men to be portrayed as talking about a woman, which is why the film and its characters struck such a chord for people right from the opening sequence.