I actually love the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests, but I think that it creates a flaw in our outlook to hang our ideas of representation on tests. These tests each only ask three simple things of a movie. Yes, they are simple. They are incredibly easy to argue about too, thus making it incredibly easy to miss bigger points. I do hope that Mako Mori starts to get the attention for testing that the Bechdel has because I’d like to see a few more opinions on whether a movie passes this one than mine. So far, there is not great way to run it by someone without resorting to Reddit.
That being said, I do want to give a shout out to Man of Steel. Yes, I know all the problems that people have with that movie and it’s lack of canon. To me, the strays were the best part. Making Lois Lane an actual reporter with a brain who sticks to a story was genius. It was cute and very “tongue in cheek” to make her so naive in years past, but how long do we have to recycle that image of her? How about making a Pulitzer prize winning reporter actually ACT like one? To me, that was a stroke of genius, though I know many traditionalists hated it.
This doesn’t improve the movie’s image when it comes to the tests, though. Her story arcs still support the man who is the main character in this movie. It is arguable whether she has a conversation with another woman in the movie. Let us take a moment and recognize that despite the fact that it still fails or squeaks by on both of these tests, female representation in all ways has improved by leaps and bounds when it comes to a Superman story specifically. And it’s not just Lois’s representation. All the female characters are just more than they were before.
Sadly, they did this in a movie that received relatively little acclaim as a superhero movie and that was scorned by many of the comic fans, but it’s a start. Maybe one day we will find a Superman reboot that Bechdel testers, Mako Mori testers and fans can enjoy. Personally, I was a huge fan of Smallville. While the female characters still mostly supported male characters, they grew in their presence and the quality of representation as the series progressed. Maybe it still wouldn’t have passed either test, but it’s female characters would have passed as role models to anyone who persisted passed the first few damsel-in-distress seasons.