4 Rom-Coms Great At Everything Except Female Portrayal

4 Rom-Coms Great At Everything Except Female Portrayal
Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

How hard can it be to write a decent female character?

There's a thing in the movie industry called the Bechdel Test, which was invented in the '80s as a way to evaluate just how male-centric a certain story is.

There are three criteria for a movie to pass the test. The first is that there must be at least two named female characters. The second is that those characters have at least one conversation. And the third criterion is actually the most important one. The conversation between the actresses shouldn't be all about men. Preferably about anything but men.

And as it turned out, even the well-known rom-coms, usually described as women's films, failed the test. These four are particularly bad at women empowerment, even though they are generally considered good movies.

1. Groundhog Day

Besides being one of America's greatest classics and one of Bill Murray's sharpest performances, Groundhog Day is also arguably one of the worst examples of female character portrayal in cinema.

Yes, there are women in the movie, but most of them are background noise and don't have names. And those who do have names, like Rita and Nancy, just end up having a conversation about men, because of course.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Another iconic movie you would never even accuse of being all in the wrong. Based on Truman Capote's novel, the story follows the blossoming romance between a struggling New York writer and the dazzling young woman who captivates him.

There are women named in the movie, lots of them. But if you watch carefully, you will never hear them talking about anything other than men.

3. Jerry Maguire

From the moment the cast was signed, it was clear that a rom-com with this list of actors was going to be a hit. Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. teamed up to take part in one of the most celebrated romances ever made.

The movie came close to passing the test, although we had Zellweger’s character Dorothy talking to her sister about leaving her work. And as she worked together with Cruise’s Jerry, he couldn’t be left out of the conversation.

4. 500 Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel portrayed a great couple in this rom-com. Well, for a while, before the love story crashes painfully for Tom, Gordon-Levitt’s character.
And since the story is told only from his perspective, it makes sense from a narrative standpoint that the movie fails the Bechdel Test.