The Bechdel Test vs. cartoon pilot episodes

1Hey Arnold
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Nope
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Yes and no, there are two named females, but they don’t interact with one another. They may do in the future but as for the pilot episode, this one fails.
Comments: Why do they all have weird shaped heads?

2Spongebob Squarepants
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? If we’re going on a technicality then it’s a strong maybe, there is a crowd scene and we can’t tell who’s a male and who’s female and they are all talking. So, maybe.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Not really, in later episodes we do meet Sandy, who totally subverts stereotypes. I mean a kick ass, Texan, karate choppin’ squirrel who lives under water? That’s rad.

3Adventure Time
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Sadly not. There are two females, but they don’t talk, presumably because one of them doesn’t speak English.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? No, Lady Rainicorn does go to the ice kingdom to save PB, and Finn and Jake just give her a hand.
Comments: later on in the series we see all the female characters completely turn gender expectations upside down (in one episode Princess Bubblegum saves Finn) and as we all know Adventure Time is a cartoon we want everyone to fall in love with and it’s just for that reason. Kudos to the writing staff!

4Regular Show
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Nope
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Kinda redundant
Comments: No women anywhere? What is going on?

5The Powerpuff Girls
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Yes, of course.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? I wouldn’t say so, although there are lots of talks between the girls, and they are shown as heroes, the whole episode is based around their fear of insects, which, let’s be honest, is conforming to the stereotype of ‘scared women’ whilst the two men who have major parts in the episode are quite happy to pick up and be friends with the insects. Comments: I really don’t like this show, it creeped me out when I was a kid and it still does.

6The Simpsons
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? YES.
Comments: technically the pilot episode was a 3 minute short, BUT Maggie and Marge talk for a full 20 seconds about breakfast and waking up in the morning. This one surprised me too.

7Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Fails
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Again, kinda redundant.
Comments: Honestly surprised again, I figured at the very least Daphne and Velma would talk about some genderless criminal, apparently not. I know for a fact that the live action movie passes, because Velma complains to Daphne about her history of helplessness.

8Family Guy
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Sort of, Meg and Lois have one very short conversation about body image. Very short as in two seconds.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Maybe.
Comments: Family guy is pretty difficult, it’s meant to be satirical, but, it’s questionable if that’s an acceptable excuse for lines like “it’s ok to lie to women, they’re not people like us”. Family Guy has a huge influence over teens all around the world and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that many of them will not understand or care about the satire.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test? No. Only one woman in the whole 20 minute pilot. And all she does is scream in Japanese at Tintin.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias? Redundant again.
Comments: Again who would’ve thought? One thing I will say, Tintin is a wuss, he gets knocked out a total of four times in the episode.

10Gravity Falls
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Oddly nope.
Is it an accurate tester for gender bias?
The show has two very strong female characters, Mabel (who saves the day might I add), one of the two lead characters, and Wendy, who isn’t really shown very much in the pilot episode. Both of these girls/ women are great examples of strong women and really makes me question the validity of the Bechdel test. Another note is watch this show, its flippin’ great.

So in summary I think it’s unrealistic to expect children’s cartoons to pass a gender test. The Bechdel Test, however awesome and powerful it is, it doesn’t take into account satire or strong female characters who may not interact with another character. The test is designed for films and not cartoons so firstly it’s not something that’s easily translatable. Secondly modern cartoons aren’t without role models for girls, check out Velma in Scooby Doo or Mabel and Wendy in Gravity Falls, or any of the Powerpuff Girls, even in Adventure Time all the female characters have traits that are worthy of being called role models.

On the other hand the Bechdel Test helped us to eliminate cartoons who have either misogyny or strong sexist themes, like Family Guy or South Park, even if it is satire.

But ultimately, I don’t think it’s necessary to judge everything by the Bechdel Test as it does have its faults.

 By Chip

3 replies »

  1. Adventure Time pass in Bechdel test in many episodes, there are many interactions between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum (Your problem, Sky Witch), or Marceline and Lumpy Space Princess (Princess Day) or even Princess Bubblegum and other characters (The Vault, Princess Day…)

    Gravity Falls also pass, please, Mabel and Pacifica don’t talk about boys.

    Hey Arnold does pass either, there are episodes with Helga interacting with her mother… and there are interactions between Helga and Phoebe that doesn’t is about Arnold.

    Did you really watch these cartoons?


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