Does Marvel Pass the Bechdel Test?

Chelsea Shettler, Prevish Marketing


a-forceIn an attempt to attract new readers to their ever growing fan base, Marvel Comics will officially be re-launching 45 new comic titles in the fall. Of these, 11 appear to be female-lead, such as Spider-Gwen. As an avid Marvel fan and comic reader, I find this move to be a little forced yet still empowering.


There has never been a lack of female characters in comic stories; just an over-abundance of sexually exploited ones. In hopes of righting the wrongs of their past, Marvel writers have been trying to recreate popular female characters, such as Spider-Woman by transforming them into “feministic power-houses” capable of saving the world without a man by their side. Marvel has had the chance to do this for the past 60 years, so why is it different this time around?


Marvel needs to pass the Bechdel Test, which measures gender equality in entertainment. It states that a visual or literary work must have “at least 2 named female characters, who talk to one another about something other than a man.” What does this mean for the comic world? Female comic characters have to be presented in a way that allows for this. The Bechdel Test is not just about conversation, but how females are represented, what decisions they make, and the relationships they hold with others.


Marvel’s new comic titles give adequate opportunity to allow for growth in the lives of our favorite hero ladies. Their responsibility is to not let such an opportunity run away from them. It is not enough to have female-lead stories, but ones that find a sweet spot between haggard conservatism and over the top feminism. In other words, these ladies need to be written as real.  Womanhood is not about making the same decisions as men, in regards to dress, behavior and other areas. It is about having the freedom to make choices that represent you as a person and to never have to respond with, “Well, because I am a girl.”


So this fall, when I pick up an issue of the all-new “Captain Marvel”, or the all-female Avengers “A-Force”, or even “Spider-Gwen”, I want to see females that are empowered because they are good human beings. They are not out to bring down the patriarchy. They wear what they want, they fight in a way that makes sense, and their personal lives reflect the outcomes of their heroic ones. They talk to each other about fighting tactics, shopping, sports, politics, and even their significant others. In other words, they act like normal, independent human beings.


Empowered female superheroes lose meaning if their actions and personas are forced for the sake of being “just like the men.” The best way for Marvel to get it right this time around is to not force an inaccurate portrayal of female empowerment. Let the stories be organic and fun just as they were 60 years ago with the original strong male-lead comic stories.




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