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The Bechdel Test is a Good Indicator of Box Office Performance

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by Inkoo Kang
January 3, 2014 3:00 PM
2 Comments
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The Heat

Movies that pass the Bechdel test make significantly more money than movies that fail the test. 

That's the conclusion that Vocativ.com writers Versha Sharma and Hanna Sender came to when they crunched the numbers to see if there was a correlation between Bechdel rankings and box-office performance

As we probably don't need to remind Women and Hollywood readers, the Bechdel test, made famous by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, examines if a film has (1) at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. 

For their study, Sharma and Sender looked at the earnings of the fifty highest-grossing films of 2013. They found that "the grand total domestic box office number for the movies that passed is significantly higher than the domestic box office total for the movies that didn't. We're talking billions."

How many billions? Women and Hollywood did some extra calculations using the wonderful infographic Vocativ provides. A positive Bechdel result earned the studio 50% more in ticket sales receipts. The 24 films that passed the test earned $176 million on average, while the 23 films that didn't earned $116 million on average. That's a whole lotta dollars Hollywood is losing out on by continuing to rely on the assumption that women don't go to the movies, that women don't choose the movies a couple or family will see, that women don't care about interesting female characters, or whatever is the nonsense du jour is. 

The Bechdel test isn't a perfect metric for female presence in the movies. The study notes that Gravity doesn't technically pass, since Sandra Bullock plays the only female character, but the space thriller is about as feminist as a film can get. But it's still a good conversation starter and valuable measuring tool, especially in highlighting how often women are treated as a token gender or reduced to being a male-encourager in Hollywood productions. 

And now we have data-driven evidence that when movies tend to treat the majority of human beings like people, they'll go see those movies. Talk about no-brainers. 

[h/t Vocativ]

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2 Comments

  • Roberta Hoekstra | January 3, 2014 5:21 PMReply

    This is good news, but I think women would make more progress in this battle if they recognised that it's not just about money. It's about power. Men in power celebrating the fact that they can make films that consolidate their position and show off the licence they've granted themselves to dominate weaker groups.

  • Star | January 4, 2014 9:05 PM

    You think women are a weaker group?

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