The Rule

Recently, somewhere in the estrogen-laced chaos of the feminist blogosphere, someone mentioned The Bechdel Movie Rule. Alison Bechdel, for those of you unfamiliar with her work, is the creator of Dykes To Watch Out For, possibly my favorite comic strip ever.

The deal with The Rule is that one of the DTWOF characters refuses to go to movies unless they 1) have more than one female character, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something other than a man. “Last movie I was able to see was Alien,” she grumps.

I was thinking about the movies I’ve seen in the last few months, and realizing that not one survived The Rule. Let’s make a list of movies that meet these criteria in comments; I want to see how many we can come up with.


27 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Gwen said,

    The Incredibles (but not Ratatouille or Wall-E, alas)

    …and sadly, that’s it, I think.

  2. 3

    Gwen said,

    (That I’ve seen recently, not that I’ve seen ever. I hope.)

  3. 4

    Annika said,

    Hmm, let’s analyze the movies that get watched around here on a regular basis:

    TOY STORY – nope.

    THE JUNGLE BOOK – definitely not.

    KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE – yup! Kiki has conversations with multiple women (separately), mostly about witchcraft and her delivery service.

    MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO – yup! The two sisters talk to each other and to Nanny and to their mother, mostly about their mother, the house, and Totoro (who I suppose could be male).

    THE SOUND OF MUSIC – Er… the nuns talk to one another about Maria, she talks to Reverend Mother about God (arguably a man), Maria talks to the girl children (well, all of the children) about music. Though her one-on-one chats with Liesl are about boys.

    So Disney loses, Japan wins, and Robert Wise is always good. (Sam is asleep on my typing arm, so I am quitting now.)

  4. 5

    julie said,

    Calendar Girls
    The Last Unicorn

    (I’ve watched these within the past two months, but only Stardust is a recent release, and only the subplot of the witches qualifies).

  5. 6

    Uccellina said,

    Isn’t it interesting that so far, with the exception of Calendar Girls, all of these are fantasy/sci fi and/or children’s movies?

  6. 7

    Mom said,

    Calendar Girls is the one I thought of. And good point about genre.

  7. 8

    Gwen said,

    Juno is neither.

    Also, nearly every single TV show I like passes with flying colors, which is really interesting, especially considering they’re not specifically aimed at women. Lost, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Friday Night Lights… the only one I can think of that might fail is Chuck. And that’s just the ones that are still on the air.

  8. 9

    screamish said,

    Um….oh god in fact this is really hard.

    The Hours I suppose, but that was years ago.

    Absolutely Fabulous? does that count?

    Frankly I don’t know if movies like this even get made much….

    This is depressing. Going to start applying the Rule….

  9. 10

    Celeste said,

    Sunshine State
    The Secret of Roan Inish

    With reservations for man-centric discussions, but in the context of life:
    Enchanted April
    How to Make An American Quilt
    Empire Falls
    Joy Luck Club

  10. 11

    uccellina said,

    Gwen – You’re right, I missed that one. However, in Juno, the main character is pregnant, and in Children of Men the women (aside from the special pregnant one) can’t get pregnant. I think that the point of The Rule is to demonstrate how women in films can’t just be people, with thoughts and activities and lives that don’t explicitly involve their gender in some way.

  11. 12

    Gwen said,

    That’s fair — in fact, when I was talking about this with A last night, I was arguing that for a movie to truly count, both female characters should be adults (ruling out Enchanted and Jurassic Park, because in both cases the scenes in question involved a woman acting in a maternal role towards a young girl).

  12. 13

    Doc said,

    What about Mean Girls? Plenty of talk between young women about things besides men.

  13. 14

    dp said,

    do you mean that the women can’t talk to each other about men for the *entire* movie? i know plenty of films where female characters talk to each other plenty and about plenty of things, but somewhere along the line, some of the women discuss men. so, um, i need to understand the game better in order to play along. . .

  14. 15

    dp said,

    in fact, i saw “step up 2: the streets” earlier this year, and the main thing the girls discussed was dancing. not that the movie is award winning or anything, but it fits . . . 🙂

  15. 16

    Nora said,

    Golden Compass
    My Girl
    there’s gotta be some documentaries…

  16. 17

    Nora said,


  17. 18

    Madeleine said,

    dp, I think the rule is “talk to each other at least once about something other than a man.”

    nora, I loved the movie contact but I can’t remember a second significant woman character for Jodie Foster to talk to. IMDB mentions a government aide, though, so maybe they had a scene together.

  18. 19

    Celeste said,

    I’ve got it! “Strangers in Good Company”.

  19. 20

    Peggydoula said,

    I was just discussing this with a friend the other day. There’s always Little Women, Stage Door (a personal favorite), Bleak House (although there is a lot of talk about boys), Monsoon Wedding (I think the women talk about all kinds of things although the movie is about a wedding), Bend it Like Beckham, Beaches

    A lot of these movies have men playing important roles but they pass the test. Also, I love “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” I don’t think it passes the test but the women in it are strong, smart, and funny.

    Also, Volver passes the test with flying colors. There are women acting as friends, sisters, and family.

  20. 21

    ecclescake said,

    Ooh! Wet Hot American Summer. Janeane Garofalo does have a crush on David Hyde Pierce, but she also wants to save the camp from SKYLAB. (And go to town.) Also, Bring It On is mostly about trying to excel at high school sports ethically.

    I wonder how The Women (Cukor version) measures up? Been a while since I’ve seen it. I remember hearing something about a remake, directed by a woman. Maybe that counts even more.

    I wish I didn’t have to rack my brains to come up with others. But yay Miyazaki!

    (Hmmm…Heathers, Steel Magnolias, Reality Bites…haven’t seen any of those in at least 10 years, but I think they pass.)

  21. 22

    Mom said,

    Well, we went to see Dark Knight yesterday and it most certainly doesn’t qualify. What really struck me were the previews – aside from Judi Dench in the new James Bond, nary a woman in sight.

  22. 23

    julie said,

    Vantage Point’s opening scene, and two or three minor moments in the rest of the film.

  23. 24

    julie said,

    Lust, Caution also has a number of scenes of women discussing things other than men, but it’s not the heart of the film.

  24. 25

    husband said,

    “The Wizard of Oz” – Dorothy talks to Auntie Em, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Good Witch, and the discussion pretty much centers on Kansas, and dogs.

  25. 26

    uccellina said,

    You guys are awesome. And Julie, I just added Lust, Caution to our Netflix queue yesterday.

  26. 27

    Liz said,

    You’ve Got Mail…the women talk to each other about how to save the store…but I don’t think it really counts.

    Gosford Park?


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