Every year, Hollywood releases a number of films — some good, some schlocky, — that will inevitably be hailed by critics as “a perfect date movie.” But, to what qualities in a film does this actually refer?
Is a “perfect date movie,” simply a romantic movie? A film that gives audiences a fresh way of looking at love? Is it just light and fun?
Well, I’d like to propose that, ideally, a “perfect date movie” would at least try not to promote harmful gender stereotypes about the ways that men and women are expected to feel about each other and behave when it comes to dating.
Luckily, there exists a pretty simple rule of thumb for determining whether or not this is happening.
The Bechdel Test, designed in 1985 by legendary cartoonist and “Dykes to Watch Out For,” creator, Alison Bechdel, asks one simple question of a film — Is there any “scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men?”
It should be an easy test to pass, but you’d be surprised by how many well-loved films fail it. (Film School Rejects recently provided a list of 10 films that are particularly surprising in this regard).
As far as date movies go, it’s admittedly not a perfect test for gender stereotyping — a film about a matriarchal island society in which women must discuss a variety of political issues might still show these same women wearing fur bikinis and flying into jealous rages when a burly, decisive man is marooned on their shores — but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
After all, there are enough gender stereotypes about dating flying around our heads and mucking things up for us as it is. Do we really need to see a movie that reinforces these ideas while we’re actually on the date?