How diverse is gender representation on screen?

Films, TV, Porn and the Internet are all mediums that portray a story to us for entertainment or educational purposes. It is interesting when you actually pay attention to these mainstream, on-screen displays, just how much gender disparity there is. There is a way to check this disparity; it is called the Bechdel Test. It is a way to assess and review the presence of women in movies. You ask three questions.

1) Are there two or more women in it that have names?

2) Do they talk to each other?

3) Do they talk to each other about something besides a man?

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This may be a considered a feminist way to review a movie, but the issue is much larger than that. It is looking in to the gender disparity between males and females in mainstream Hollywood films, which when you look in to it, the list is endless. The industry catering to our screens should be fair and equal as the audiences would generally be equal male to female ratios. So why aren’t they?

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I conducted a short Interview with 2 friends, one male and one female, both the same age, 21, to see what they thought about the Bechdel test and to see what the reaction would be when they undertook the test on their top five movies of all time.

Question 1: What are your top 5 films of all time?

Question 2: Do they all fit in less than 2 categories of film?

Question 3: What is the average gender of the lead characters in these films?

Question 4: Have you heard of the Bechdel test? If not, the Bechdel Test rates films based on the criteria of containing at least two female characters that talk to each other about something besides a man. Please watch the following short YouTube clip to understand further about this test.

Now that you know about the Bechdel test, think about your top 5 movies you listed to me. Do these film past the test? Why do you think this is?

Question 5: Now that you realize if your favourite films do or do not have a degree of gender disparity, will you be more conscious of this when you are watching films in the future and why?

Once I finished interviewing I was conscious to the level of awareness when it comes to gender disparity. It is low. The female had not heard about the test but the male had. The male had more favourite films with male characters in the lead role and likewise with the female participant, she had more male lead role favourites listed. 4 out of the 5 male participants did not pass the Bechdel test, and 3 out of the 5 female participants films did not pass.

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These results show to me, that even if society is aware of the disparity, they still enjoy watching films that may have an unequal gender representation. It is worth pointing out that this may not necessarily be a depiction of the type of person they are, it should come back to the industry of film itself, “built upon catering for, to and about men” (Sarkeesian, A. 2009).

For a further study to be undertaken, I think it would be important not only to know about what my generation know and think about the films they watch, but also to look in to current and recent studies on what the effects of gender disparity on screen is as it then forms societal opinion in the real world. Watching and then acting in the real world, is an effect that is already evident in studies on thing such as violence. When someone ‘watches violent films or games does this make them a violent person?'(Rule, B & Ferguson, J, T. 2010). Whilst there is a whole range of external forces adding to a person’s violent personality, research shows that it is still a prominent and acting force. So does the same go for gender equality? Is this a prominent force that could be changed and would we then see the effects in the real world?

Blog Question: Conduct a short Interview.


Rule, B & Ferguson, J, T. 2010. ‘The effects of media violence on attitudes, emotions and cognitions’, Social Issues Journal, Vol 42, Issue 3, p.g. 29-50. Retrieved from,

Feminist Frequency, The Bechdel Test for women in movies, video, YouTube, Dec 7 2009, viewed 16 Apr 2015. <>

Feminist Frequency, About, Sarkeesian, A, viewed 16 April 2015. <>

Text Picture:

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Shrek Picture:

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