Seeing ourselves as heroines

Louise Chunn thinks women should learn to stick together to make great movies

Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test? It works like this: Think of a film in which first, there are two main women characters who both have names. Second, who talk to each other and third, who talk to each other about something other than men.

Yes, Thelma and Louise passes, but I can give you dozens and dozens that don’t. The test is named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, and has become a litmus test for movies that treat women seriously, as the heroines of their own movies.

I came upon it when I was prepping to interview the wonderful Scottish actress Shirley Henderson at a screening of Meek’s Cutoff during the Bird’s Eye View Festival in March. Now that is one film that does treat women seriously — perhaps it treats everything rather too seriously? That depends how you feel about spending two hours crossing the desert with maybe a sentence or two between the hardy pioneers every five minutes.

I am made of rather more obvious stuff, I guess. I love the warmth of Mama Mia, the bitchy drama of All About Eve — and I am really looking forward to Bridesmaids, the summer comedy that is apparently a female version of The Hangover. There will probably be lots of crudity — and I may not like every joke. But a gang of grown-up girls, together and having fun sounds like the kind of thing that women could and should be able to enjoy without having to make excuses.

And if you need further proof of the need for more women to stand up and be heard, get a load of extracts from Tina Fey’s hilarious and pointed new book.