Hollywood Movies With Strong Female Roles Make More Money
The biggest blockbusters of 2013 scored pretty well on the Bechdel Test, a measure of quality onscreen time for women—but even better at the box office
Dear Hollywood: We know how you can make more money in 2014.
Put more women onscreen.
We analyzed the top 50 biggest box office movies of 2013 to see if they passed the Bechdel Test, which evaluates whether a movie has two or more women in it who have a conversation about something other than a man. It’s named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who wrote about it in her popular comic Dykes to Watch Out For. (Bechdel actually credits her friend Liz Wallace with the rule.)
The three-part criteria for a movie to pass:
It has to have (1) at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man.
Out of 50 total movies we looked at, 17, or 36 percent, passed with flying colors. An additional seven technically passed, but are deemed “dubious” by Bechdel-watchers because of the dialogue (some of it was about a man, some of it wasn’t, but not much).
What we found is this: 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.
Perhaps even more shocking is that every single director was male. We repeat: 50 movies, zero female directors. Maybe some more women behind the camera would be a good start, eh? (UPDATE: An astute reader informs us that Frozen was actually co-directed by Jennifer Lee, so make that .5 out of 50, with apologies to Ms. Lee.)
One huge caveat: As listed on the Bechdel Test website, Gravity technically fails. We did not include it in the fail list, as it’s a special case: There are only two main characters onscreen in the movie, and Sandra Bullock is one of them. She’s also onscreen way more than co-star George Clooney. It grossed $254.6 million domestically, so even if we had included it in the fail total, the clear victor would remain the same.
Movies That Passed
If G.I. Joe can do it, anyone can (you would think). Fast and Furious 6? We’re impressed. (And RIP Paul Walker.)
The Heat is one of our favorites—classic cop duo schtick with two badass women: Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. They inspired many a female pair to dress up as cops for Halloween, which the movie’s official Twitter account documented in detail.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another standout, inspiring little girls everywhere with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss as the heroine of her world, but the sequel has the added bonus of Jena Malone’s fierce Johanna Mason, who some would love to see replace Peeta and Gale as a love interest.