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Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey passes the Bechdel Test in the right ways

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey passes the Bechdel Test in the right ways

Today, there’s seldom a conversation of women in movie theater without some reference of the BechdelTest The fast idea experiment highlights gender variations in movie by asking whether film consists of 2 women who speak with each other about something besides a guy. When used throughout the entire swath of modern-day movie theater, the Test is an efficient method to highlight the unexpected number of movies out there in which female characters just respond to the men around them.

The Bechdel Test does not truly inform you anything about a specific film– it’s not a step of quality (or even of feminist content). That does not keep individuals from applying it to individual movies as if it were. And with a brand-new superhero film in theaters that features not simply one however 5 woman leads, there is an easy to understand temptation to use the Bechdel Test to Birds ofPrey


What’s paradoxical is that Birds of Prey is kind of whatever the Bechdel Test is evaluating for. The initial Bechdel Test, that is. A test that originated from a comic developed by and for queer individuals– however specifically queer women who wished to see themselves represented on the big screen.

Lambert and Ripley in Alien.
Image: 20 th Century Fox.

The Bechdel- Wallace Test

The Bechdel Test is called for Alison Bechdel, the famous queer cartoonist who ended up being a name for her weekly cartoon,Dykes to Watch Out For DtWOF ranged from 1983-2003 in the progressive cartooning paper Funny Times, was syndicated in various queer regulars, and today, is fundamental text for a generation of queer folks. Bechdel has actually continued to skyrocket that first burst of appeal: her graphic narrative Enjoyable Home was adjusted into a hit Broadway musical, and she was granted a MacArthur “Genius” grant in2014


In 1985, Bechdel released “The Guideline,” a single installation of Dykes to Keep An Eye Out For, in which one lesbian character discusses her individual guidelines for whether she’ll go see a film. The guidelines became called the BechdelTest


Image: AlisonBechdel

The guidelines, which Bechdel chooses to call the Bechdel- Wallace Test, as they were motivated by her pal Liz Wallace, evolved into a method to expose male-bias in cinematic storytelling. in its initial, humorously designated type, it was likewise something a bit more unique.

The characters in “The Guideline” (the 2 look like called characters from later in the strip’s life, however weren’t called at the time it was released) are both lesbian women, attempting to pick a film, and fed up with being not able to see themselves anywhere in mainstream, enjoyable, action-y movie theater. One of the characters remarks that she hasn’t seen a film considering that Alien, a six-year-old release, in which the 2 women speak with each other about the alien itself.

As they talk, the women in the comic walk past film posters of excessively muscled men wielding weapons and swords on parodic posters for films called The Mercenary, The Barbarian, The Vigilante, and Rambo Fulfills Godzilla. And to a straight lady, the male power dream of Rambo may a minimum of hold the appeal of seeing a ripped Sylvester Stallone at his prime. He’s neither a power dream nor a sexual dream for a lesbian audience, and in 1985, these 2 popcorn-movie-loving lesbians do not hold any hope of seeing real queer female representation on the screen.

However if there are 2 women in the film, and those 2 women speak with each other, and their discussion makes clear that they consider something besides the men around them? In a landscape of severe deficiency, those 2 women might possibly be seen with a queer lens. They might be delivered together. A lesbian audience might a minimum of indulge in the dream of representation.

” It was suggested as a joke,” Bechdel told San Diego City Beat in 2015, “however I still believe it’s a really beneficial joke,” and the larger movie world, which started embracing the Bechdel- Wallace Test as an important frame in the 2010 s, appears to have actually concurred.

Picture: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.

Which brings us back to Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey isn’t simply a popcorn film with numerous women who speak with each other about something besides a guy. Like the Bechdel- Wallace Test, it belongs of the huge contributions comics developers have actually made to American culture and art. (It likewise passes the Bechdel- Wallace Test lots of times over: Montoya and Black Canary talk about the latter’s mom; Cassandra grills Harley about how she got to be so cool; Harley and Canary snipe backward and forward about the other’s self-confidence; simply among others minutes.)

And, of course, it’s a popcorn film with a canonically queer lead and costar, Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya. Harley’s bisexuality is developed in her introduction, and Ali Wong plays Renee Montoya’s ex-girlfriend who is likewise the assistant district lawyer (uncomfortable).

And sure, perhaps we should not be so fast to get thrilled about 2 characters who are developed as queer in reasonably fast however specific asides– the sort thatmight be edited for foreign markets When I saw a tweet exulting in how Birds of Prey passes the Bechdel- Wallace Test numerous times over, I could not assist believing about its origins in a period when even the capability to daydream about the capacity for queer representation in a film was a high order.

Birds of Prey might be precisely the kind of popcorn slugfest the women in “The Guideline” would enjoy, and they would not even need to pretend that some of the women on screen enjoyed women. And as filmmakers progressively see their overcome the Bechdel- Wallace lens, they should not forget the test’s origins weren’t almost female representation, however queer representation, too.

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