Sofia Coppola – a director famed for her movies about women – has been attacked by one-time feminist allies for never having heard of the Bechdel Test.
Coppola (pictured above, centre, in black) admitted that she’d never heard of the metric – a much-touted formula used by film critics to work out whether a film is sexist.
The slip-up came in an interview with GQ Magazine published this week, where Coppola said she had never heard of the test – the key criterion of which is whether two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man:
GQ: I loved The Beguiled. Would you say this is the rare feminist film that struggles to pass the Bechdel test?
Sofia Coppola: The what test?
GQ: The Bechdel test.
SC: I’ve never heard of that. What’s that?
GQ: It’s a test to see if two or more women in a movie talk about something other than a man.
SC: Oh, I guess I’ve never studied film. That’s so funny, but there are a lot of women talking about a man in this.
The criticism is a further blow to her liberal credentials, on the back of claims that The Beguiled, a Civil War-era movie, is a piece of “white elitism” that erases black voices.
The backlash was swift:
Why do y'all think Sofia Coppola would have ever heard of the Bechdel Test she lives in an Air soundtrack and only leaves to eat macarons
— Ira Madison III (@ira) June 20, 2017
Oh for fuck’s sake Ms Coppola! Here’s hoping your next film does pass the Bechdel Test. https://t.co/OZKVrCas67
— Naheed (@naheedhaka) June 22, 2017
things sofia coppola had no idea existed until this week: black people, the bechdel test. what will sofia, a 46 year old woman, learn next?
— mo (@monosyllabitch) June 20, 2017
Her having never heard of the test is being interpreted by some as a consequence of privilege.
A piece for The Mary Sue noted “Coppola probably wouldn’t have heard about Allison [sic] Bechdel, even if she hadn’t been born into a career… She doesn’t see the patterns, the tropes, and the holes in representation in her own work, and she probably doesn’t notice them in her industry at large.”
The test, invented by comic strip artist Alison Bechdel and friend Liz Wallace, measures works of art or entertainment in terms of whether their female characters have names, and whether, should they be in a scene without a male character, they talk about anything other than men.
The Beguiled, based on a 1971 movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood, follows the lives of five students and two teachers at the southern Farnsworth seminary for women towards the end of the Confederacy.
Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) takes in a Unionist deserter (Colin Farrell), and his presence throws the seminary into confusion as the women become aware of not just their capacity for desire, but their capacity for ruthlessness and treachery.
The director’s films, including Marie Antoinette and The Bling Ring, have been both criticized and lauded for their portrayals of “white femininity”.
While some see her as a quintessential auteur of the female experience, others see her as just more of the same.