The Bechdel Test: Pitch Perfect hits high and low notes

Em Leonick, Staff Writer

In this weekly feature, staff writer Em Leonick will analyze and review movies, both contemporary and classic, according to the Bechdel Test, which measures female representation in film. The test requires there to be more than one female character, and they must speak to one another about something other than a man.

Often times, to ensure that you’ll watch a movie that passes the Bechdel Test of female representation it’s easiest to pick a film with females as a majority of the cast. If nothing else, they’re more likely to pass incidentally with the sheer number of opportunities that it has with so many female characters.

Pitch Perfect is one of those predominately female movies. This musical comedy, released in 2012, is the story of Beca Mitchell, played by Anna Kendrick, trying to make it through a year of college as an agreement with her father so she can move to LA with his help to peruse her dreams to produce music. In order to show him that she’s trying, she joins the Barden Bellas, an all-female a cappella group, and takes part in getting them to the national competition for a cappella groups.

The film itself has a whole host of female characters such as Aubrey (Anna Camp), Chloe (Britany Snow) and “Fat Amy” (Rebel Wilson). Beyond them, all of the Barden Bellas miraculously have names, regardless of how many lines they have throughout the film. There is also a romantic tension in the film between Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), though it is a sub-plot that manages not to overshadow the rest of the plot of the film.

Pitch Perfect passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, though it should be expected because the majority of characters in this film are women. It’d be more impressive if it failed, given the amount of opportunities within the plot for all the criteria of the test to be met.

There are a plethora of female characters in the movie, maxing out at fourteen. Amazingly, all fourteen of these characters have at least a first name. In fact, only two don’t have a last name, which is refreshing. Throughout the film, there are hundreds of instances of female characters talking to each other. Most of these conversations don’t have to do with a man.

It is frustrating, however, that it takes a female led movie for there to be a movie that passes with such ease. This movie has plenty of representation, not only of women, but of different types of women. There are characters of color within the film, and there is also a character who is a lesbian. However, the representation of both has their problematic moments. For example, when Beca meets her roommate, Kimmy-Jin, she becomes the butt of a “do you speak English/under me” joke.
There is also the fact Cynthia-Rose’s sexuality is also the center point of a recurring joke. Both serve their purpose in the comedy of the film.

Pitch Perfect is a prime example of how a female-driven film can thrive. It became incredibly popular, even though it’s about a group of women, which means representation of women isn’t always something trivial. However, the way it represents certain types of people leave something to be desired.