Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Another Bechdel puzzle: Harold and Maude
Bar Harbor
kestrell and I recently watched an old favorite of mine, Harold and Maude. Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Harold's mom has conversations with three other named female characters over the course of the movie. They discuss careers and schooling, among other issues. So on a purely literal level, it's a clear pass.

On the other hand, all of these other women have entered the story through a computer dating service that Harold's mother made him join, and she is evaluating them in terms of their suitability as potential mates for him. So even when they aren't explicitly discussing Harold, he remains, in some sense, the focus of their conversations.


  • 1
They may have names, but they are solely there to reflect an aspect of Harold, or Harold's relationship with his mother. The conversation is merely place filler until we come to the moment that Harold drives them off.

No, I don't think so. This is feature creep. Not a bad thing, as long as you are aware of it.

The reason I am in Chelmsford is because it was near a job that metageek got. Does that mean anything I do in Chelmsford is about metageek?


As Tom Lehrer said, "When correctly viewed, everything is lewd". Meaning that if you're allowing interpretation or extension by logic, it can all reduce to pretty much any particular matter you desire - sex, class warfare, what have you.

So, either you draw a really firm line against that, or you just admit that nothing will pass the test.

It passes the test. But the test may not be measuring what the creator thought it was.

I think it does. The test, if you look at it in its original context, is a purposefully low bar. The point is that it's really not asking for much, and that a lot of stuff will pass that does not exactly represent the platonic ideal of gender equality, but these are the prerequisites for having even the potential for well-constructed women characters and almost nothing passes it. Those women are only there for Harold, so it's not something I'd put on the syllabus in a feminism 101 class, but they get to voice opinions about something other than him, which is better than women get in most movies.

I should probably note that I haven't actually seen Harold and Maude, although it's on my list.

Technical pass. As the stated spec is a technical spec, this movie fits the bill.

It might run counter to spirit, but by letter of formula....

Pass. My mother and my wife can have long discussions about things which have nothing to do with me, even though the only reason they know each other is me.

Harold can be the focus of the plot or even whole movie without being the focus of the female characters' existence.

Man, I forgot about the Bechdel test, and about how frighteningly few movies pass it.

Despite my love of the film

I would say fail. The conversations are about Harold and dating. It is women talking about men.

Having said this, a big element of the movie is the lack of mothering and femininity in Harold's life. I might argue that the absence of helpful women is thematically important. It is interesting that the movie has two powerful female roles that never interact.

  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account