The Bechdel Test Updated for the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Ricky Altieri and Ginny Hogan

Illustrated by Eva Hill

The Bechdel test was originally intended to see if female characters in movies talked about anything other than men. While I myself have occasionally failed the original Bechdel test in my regular conversations, I have good news – I talk significantly less about guys now, and significantly more about an entity that actually does want to latch onto me – the coronavirus. And I know I’m not alone. As such, I created a new version of the Bechdel test for our troubling times.

  1. Can you and another person FaceTime for 45 seconds before one of you brings up your impending doom?
  2. Can you have a Zoom work call in which one person’s WiFi goes out before every single member of the meeting has made a bad joke about Klonopin?
  3. Can you write a whole email using the phase, “I hope you are well during this challenging time” fewer than six times? Even if the email is just one sentence?
  4. Can you have a Skype call that lasts more than 10 minutes without one of you saying, “it’s about flattening the curve,” and the other nodding along without knowing what that means. Also, can you have a Skype call that lasts more than 10 minutes? Mine always breaks down.
  1. Can you pet a dog for more than 20 seconds before the dog starts sniffing you and you wonder if it’s using its doggy senses to see if you’re carrying corona?
  1. Can you watch a TV show for more than 3 minutes before you get jealous that the characters get to touch each other? How is an animated horse getting more action than you!?!
  2. Did someone get out of a Zoom call with you by saying, “sorry, I have plans?” If so, they were lying. This is the most bored they’ll ever be, and they’re still not bored enough to talk to you. I hate to be harsh, but I’ve been quarantined too long to be polite.
  3. Can you go 45 minutes without checking Amazon to see if toilet paper is back in stock?
  4. Can you hear someone cough, calmly say “bless you,” and not silently think to yourself “damn you”? It’s ok, you’re only human, and humans cough maliciously.
  5. Can you wave hello to the neighbor standing 12 feet away from you without thinking, “Is this Dr. Fauci approved?” 
  6. Can you not make a podcast? Like, please, don’t?
  7. Can you wait six minutes between meals? Could you ever? If so, stop being a show-off.
  8. Can you call your mom and finish the sentence, “have you seen this new Netflix show, it’s so bad, I’ve watched it twice” before you break down in tears?’
  1. Can you remember when your Zoom picture was not an integral part of how you expressed yourself? When it was just an avatar, not your whole identity? When it might have just been the default image from Google, taken from below your chin? Now it’s your $800 headshots framed with a banner of your political affiliation. It’s all you have.
  2. Can you open the New York Times homepage without crying?
  3. Can you open Twitter without crying?
  4. Can you open your eyes without crying?
  5. Can you remember what the conditions are for the original Bechdel test?
  6. Can you tell which is the kitchen and which is your bedroom? (refresher: the kitchen is where you store food, the bedroom is where you eat food).
  7. Can you tell which is the TV and which is the window?
  8. Can you tell your ass from your elbow? 
  9. Do you know where you are?
  10. Are you ok?

Did you answer “Yes” to any of the – actually, who are we kidding. You failed.

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