Each week, staff wrtier Em Leonick will analyze classic and current movies to see if they pass the Bechdel Test, which gauges female representaion in film.
Looking at movies with the Bechdel Test in mind can sometimes be a frustrating thing to do. Just because the movie itself is good does not always mean it is going to pass the test.
Likewise, movies that pass the test, even those that pass on technicalities, are not always the best to sit down and watch. It is also incredibly frustrating to know a movie really well and love it, and then go back and approach it with the Bechdel Test in mind.
One movie that I love that I thought would be good to go back and look at with the Bechdel Test is Ghostbusters, a supernatural comedy released in 1984. The movie stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as three scientists who started a ghost-hunting business after being fired from their jobs at Columbia University, and Ernie Hudson as the fourth edition to the team when business takes off.
Also in the movie are Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, who play a client of the ghostbusters and her neighbor, who both end up dealing with demonic spirits that are haunting their building. Throughout the film, the team deals with ghosts throughout the city and eventually stumble upon something even more sinister when Weaver’s and Moranis’ characters end up possessed by the demonic spirits in their building.
Ghostbusters is a genuinely funny movie, and it holds a place as one of my all-time favorite films for a reason. What is lacks in special effects it makes up for in great writing and great acting. However, it does not pass the Bechdel test. There are two named women in the film, Dana (Weaver’s character) and Janine, the ghostbusters’ secretary.
While the two do speak to each other, they only speak to each other about the men Dana is trying to hire to solve the problem of her building being haunted. It passes two out of the three tests, but it almost does not feel like it should pass.
Dana is the only female character that can be taken out of the movie and leave behind a plot hole, as it is her apartment being haunted and she does end up possessed by a spirit. Unfortunately, that also means that she ends up needing to be saved by the protagonists in the film, a group of men. She serves as the damsel in distress in the film, which is commonly seen with women characters. Dana also serves as the object of multiple men, creating a rivalry between them.
Though Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies, watching it for this article was both frustrating and a bit of a letdown. While it is a great movie by the standards of the average movie watcher, someone interested in female characters holding an important role in films will be disappointed.
There’s only one female character of any real importance, and she ends up being something for two men to fight over and ends up needing to be rescued. It is a disappointment because this movie is otherwise great.