The Bechdel test, conceived by comic writer Allison Bechdel, applies the following criteria to movies:
- There are two named female characters
- who talk to each other
- about something other than a man.
It’s been used as a sort of feminist litmus test for movies since its inception in 1985. It’s an eye opener because a lot of movies fail this absurdly simple test and it’s difficult to imagine that there are that many plot lines where the above isn’t helpful, useful, or essential. It’s a good way to grade Hollywood and its portrayal of women as a whole. What it isn’t, is a good way way to grade individual movies. What it also isn’t, is healthy to feminism. (In my opinion, I’m a man so feel free to tell me to fuck off.)
The impetus behind the Bechdel Test as a tool of feminism is the notion that women are independent of men, which is certainly true, and a necessary thing to highlight in regards to feminism…but it’s harmful because it still uses men (or more accurately their absence) to define women. Enter: The Mako Mori Test. The Mako Mori Test, named for the Pacific Rim Character, judges a movie based on:
- There being at least one female character;
- who gets her own narrative arc
- that is not about supporting a man’s story.
The Mako Mori Test is not about female independence in regards to men. It’s about female independence. Period. (Since 2 and 3 are redundant.) It’s reminiscent of George R.R. Martin’s famous answer as to how he manages to write such convincing female characters.
Because, you know, they are. Whether there’s a man in the frame or not.