No, it is not like the Rorschach test. Nor does it have to do with science. It has to do with the way women are portrayed in films. (You didn't see that coming, did you.)
As Wikipedia says, "A work passes the test if it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man."
The notion was conceived in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For. (You really didn't see that coming, did you.) In a strip called "The Rule" a female character outlined her requirements for the films she watched:
- It has to have at least two women in it
- who talk to each other
- about something besides a man.
Bechdel has said she didn't come up with it as a way to say that films are good or bad, she just wanted to give people a way to think about films in a different way. And sure enough, if you apply it to films, a huge number fail.
This article chronicles 10 Famous Films that Surprisingly Fail the Bechdel Test. The reason for each film is listed (and is very interesting), but here's the list:
The Social Network; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II; Avatar; The Original Star Wars Trilogy; The Lord of the Rings Trilogy; Run Lola Run.
As for the number one film on the list, the article says this: "Despite Lola being considered one of the most well-rounded female characters ever put to film, Run Lola Runstill fails The Bechdal Test for one simple reason – Lola never has a conversation with another female at any point in the movie. She talks to her father, her boyfriend, the security guard at her father’s bank…and not a single woman."
So what's the point of the test? We're not entirely sure, since clearly, great films can fail it (and crap films can pass, like a whole host of films listed here).
But your personal pop culture rating just went up, and that is definitely a good thing.