Each week, staff writer Em Leonick will analyze classic and current movies to see if they pass the Bechdel Test, which gauges female representation in film.
Movies that pass the Bechdel test sometimes do so for small reasons. Movies like this can be frustrating because while they technically pass the test, it often feels to people who concern themselves with the importance of representation in film that it still does not hit the mark. One such movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a comedy film that was released in 1986. It stars Matthew Broderick as the titular character, Ferris Bueller, who goes to great and rather creative lengths to trick his family into thinking he is sick so he can skip school. In this film, Ferris often breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience about various things.
His sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey) does not believe him and spends the movie trying to prove he is not actually sick, which does get her into some trouble of her own and results in her being arrested at one point in the film.
Along with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), who reluctantly joins his skip day, Ferris manages to make the most of his day off from school. The three do a host of things, such as taking out Cameron’s father’s Ferrari, going to a game at Wrigley Field, and even singing on a parade float, while avoiding not only his parents who he runs into, but also the school’s Dean of Students (Jeffery Jones), who is desperate to catch Ferris skipping.
In all technicalities, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off does pass the Bechdel Test. There are multiple named women within the film. Ferris’ sister Jeannie and his girlfriend Sloane both manage to fill this quota, as well as a couple secondary characters that do not play an incredibly important role in the film. Two women speak to each other in the film. For example, Jeannie and her mom have several conversations. Some of them are about something other than Ferris, such as about why Jeannie got arrested, meaning it also passes that section of the test.
Outside the test, proper representation is a little more questionable. Sure, there are a couple of named females who talk to each other, but if you were to remove them from the film, it would not make a difference. In fact, if you were to completely take out Jeannie and her story line, not much in the film would change.
Not only do the women feel inconsequential in the film, there is not really any diversity in these characters. All of the female characters that hold any sort of narrative weight are the same type of women. There are not any people of color within the cast of this film, which is also disappointing. The representation of different types of women, as well as women in general, seems to just fall short.
In all technicalities, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off does pass the Bechdel Test. However, this movie is an example of the test not being the definitive decision on whether or not there is good representation in a film. While the passes the test, it certainly leaves a lot of room for varying representations.