I decided to make this week my first ever “Bechdel Week.” For this, I’m going to look at each new episode of my weekly television shows and apply the Bechdel test to them. Mostly, this is just out of sheer curiosity. While I often think about the Bechdel Test, I don’t always apply it to everything I watch. I picked this week for a couple of reasons. First of all, November is a sweeps month, when networks are trying to put out their best and buzziest episodes in order to draw ratings. If shows aren’t willing to accurately portray female relationships in what they’re hoping will be their highest rated shows, that’s not a positive sign. Also, this is probably the best week in November for this. Most of the shows will be new. All Tuesday night shows got pre-empted last week for the election and most Thursday night ones will be pre-empted because of Thanksgiving next week.
So, the Bechdel test. It is extremely simple. At some point in an episode of a television show or movie, do two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man? The number of shows and movies that pass this bare bones challenge is not nearly as high as I would like it to be. Let’s get to it. Sundays are a relatively light night in terms of my television line-up. I only have two shows airing that I watch: Once Upon a Time and Revenge.
ONCE UPON A TIME
“Child of the Moon”
Written by Andrew Chambliss & Ian Goldberg
Summary: Ruby is the main suspect in a savage killing during a full moon. Meanwhile, Decker considers revealing David’s true background; Leroy uncovers a prized item in the mines; and in the fairy-tale world, Red Riding Hood discovers people similar to her.
Does the show pass the Bechdel test? YES!
Early in the episode, Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory) and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) have a conversation while running away from a group of men who are trying to kill that. The topic of conversation is how Red Riding Hood will deal with her transformation into a wolf and whether Snow White trusts her. Later, Snow finds Red again and they discuss whether Red will leave with Snow or stay with her family.
Also in the fairy-tale world, Red Riding Hood and her mother have a conversation about her life as a wolf and why Red’s mother was not present for most of Red’s life. There was another scene later in the show where Red and her mother discuss Red’s acceptance of her life as a wolf. Later, Red, Red’s mom and Snow talk about whether or not Snow is responsible for another wolf’s death and who will kill Snow because of it.
In the real world, Ruby and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) talk about whether it is safe for Belle to stay with Ruby during her transformation and how the townspeople see Ruby as a monster.
There are several instances where Ruby has dialogue with other women, such as her grandmother or Belle. However, David (Josh Dallas) is also present during these scenes and really leads those conversations, so I did not really count those.
There is also a very brief scene at the end of the show between Snow, Emma (Jennifer Morrison), and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) about Aurora’s nightmares.
This episode is a great example of a show featuring strong female representation. A good portion of the episode features dialogue between women about topics such as acceptance and self-identity. The central character in this episode is really Ruby/Red whose main struggle is dealing with her life as a half-wolf and how it affects her every day. There are at least five scenes in this episode that pass the Bechdel test. It shows strong friendships between Ruby and Belle, as well as Red and Snow. We see the effects of a strained relationship between a daughter and her mother.
Written by Ellie Triedman
Summary: Mason looks deeper into Emily’s background, which makes things difficult for her. Meanwhile, Kara starts to become unhinged and targets the Graysons.
Does this show pass the Bechdel test? Yes, but barely
At the very beginning of the episode, Victoria (Madeline Stowe) and Kara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) very briefly discuss whether Kara should leave and who will pay for her plane ticket. There is also a very brief good-bye scene between Emily (Emily VanCamp), Kara, and Victoria as Kara leaves for the airport.
There is a lengthy conversation between Amanda (Margarita Levieva) and Emily toward the beginning of the episode, but the main focus of their conversation is Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart) and Amanda’s engagement to Jack (Nick Weschler).
Towards the end of the episode, Kara takes Victoria and Conrad (Henry Czerny) hostage. However, most of the dialogue in that scene is between Kara and Conrad. Kara only briefly acknowledges Victoria. Also, since the reason for Kara taking them hostage involves the conspiracy surrounding David Clark (James Tupper), most of the conversation centers around him. Following that, Emily and Kara have a brief goodbye scene, but Aidan is also present and the majority of the conversation centers around Kara’s ex-husband Gordon.
Literally every other scene featuring a female character involves her talking to a male character. There are approximately 90 seconds of the episode that truly fulfill the requirements for the Bechdel test.