To measure whether women had any depth in works of fiction, cartoonist Alison Bechdel came up with a test: there must be at least two named female characters who talk to each other, and the two women should have a conversation with each other about something other than a man.
How do films that pass the Bechdel test fare at the box office? FiveThirtyEight analyzed some data to find out:
Using Bechdel test data, we analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits. We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t.
Are you listening Hollywood? As Ester pointed out recently movies featuring women have helped bring in $2 billion to the box office this year so far. It seems that Hollywood would rather invest in movies with lots of explosions above all else, though.