Do the characters in Star Wars and Star Trek — movies ostensibly depicting future lives and worlds — pass the Bechdel test? I was up too late one night and decided to think this through.
What is the Bechdel test, you ask?
It’s generally accepted as whether a work of fiction features at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man. That’s it. Shouldn’t be too hard.
Being a woman, I know I have many conversations with other women that don’t revolve around men. Even in my hormonal teens I had plenty of things to discuss — classes, my future, the state of the world, astrophysics (hey — I’m a geek).
I’m not trying to promote an equality agenda here, but I do find all this, as Spock would say, fascinating. Understand that passing or failing this test doesn’t mean the movie is better or worse for it. It’s just a criteria that hasn’t been considered much, until lately. (Gender equality can be an inflammatory topic, but it really doesn’t need to be.)
For the sake of this article, we’ll just look at the movies in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes. I’ll keep it brief and assume you remember the names of the characters.
Star Wars and the Bechdel Test
Listed in chronological universe order, and let me know in the comments below if I missed something:
The Phantom Menace — No. Padme and her “loyal bodyguard” don’t actually talk to each other. Padme and Shmi don’t chat.
Attack of the Clones — No.
Revenge of the Sith — No.
Solo — No. The one time Qi’ra and L3 talk, it’s about Lando Calrissian. Next.
Rogue One — YES! Young Jyn Erso and Lyra (her mother talk), briefly, about the Khyber crystal. We will say this counts, even though it’s slim pickings.
A New Hope — This is the 70s. We’re just lucky Princess Leia can shoot a rifle.
The Empire Strikes Back — Nope.
Return of the Jedi — No and no. Not even Mon Mothma can help us here.
The Force Awakens — Yes. Maz Canata and Rey talk together about Rey’s past in a nice scene.
The Last Jedi — Yes, but barely. Leia and Holdo do talk to each other, but it’s mostly about Poe. Some of it concerns the mission, so that’s something.
Rise Of Skywalker — A clear YES! Rey and Leia have an extended conversation early on after the training montage. Rey also shares some nice words with Zorii Bliss towards the end.
Star Trek and the Bechdel Test
For some of these movies it’s been a while, and for the rest, I didn’t pay attention to the Bechdel aspect. So if I missed a moment, please let me know in the comments and I’ll fix this post. I’d love to add a movie to the plus column, since it’s looking like no for no in ten movies.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture — I really need to rewatch this one, since it’s been decades since a rewatch. But I don’t think this is a go. The two named women I recall — Uhura and Ilia — don’t talk to each other.
The Wrath of Khan — No. Saavik and Uhura don’t interact.
The Search for Spock — No. Same as above, even with the “new” Saavik.
The Voyage Home — This was a possible candidate, with Jillian so prominently featured. But no. She only interacts with Kirk and Spock. Amanda only interacts with Spock. Saavik just talks to Kirk. Uhura is once again just there for a few lines with Chekov in San Francisco, and does her thing on the bridge.
The Final Frontier — No.
The Undiscovered Country — Nope. There’s a token female Klingon, but still, sadly, this is a no.
Generations — This is basically the Kirk & Picard Show. Nope.
First Contact — This would have been a good entry if Lily talked at all to Troi or Crusher about the mission. Or if Troi and Crusher talked to each other. Or even if the EMH in sickbay was female when Crusher brusquely told him what to do. (It was nice to see “Voyager’s” Doctor, though.)
Insurrection — Why are these movies mostly about Picard and Data, instead of featuring the ensemble?
Nemesis — Every female is now completely sidelined in this strange final movie set in the Prime timeline.
I’m not going to mention the JJ Abrams Treks, since this post is already long enough. But I don’t think Uhura interacts with any of the female guest stars, or they with each other. (Well, one brief scene in 2009 might count.)
So, clearly both these franchises have a ways to go, although perhaps Star Wars might be, interestingly, closer to an accurate depiction of women interacting among “strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations.”
How do other series perform on the Bechdel test?
Other films worth thinking through are in the Marvel franchises — namely, the X-Men and Marvel Cinematic Universe sagas. Offhand, I know for sure there are two named female characters that speak to each other about something other than a man in Captain Marvel, but that’s a really late entry in the Infinity Saga. Plus, that was the first movie showcasing a woman as the superhero. I also recall in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 that Gamora and Nebula discuss being sisters at one point, without referencing Thanos, so that’s there too. I’m not sure X-Men heroes Storm and Jean Grey have any conversations at all. Can anyone add something that stands out?
There’s also the world of Harry Potter, which I think might perform better. Grist for another article, another time.
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