The “Bechdel Test,” named after an early comic strip by Alison Bechdel of “Dykes to Watch Out For” fame, proposes a set of three criteria for films with strong roles for women. As one of the characters in the strip put it, they wouldn’t see a film unless it had:
- At least two female characters, who
- Talk to each other, about
- Something besides a man
This of course eliminates a lot of Hollywood output. However, showing how Hollywood treats women in their productions is the point.
I thought I’d apply this test to animated Christmas specials on TV, so let’s see which ones pass and fail.
6Teen’s “Deck the Mall”
There’s several conversations between Nikki, Caitlin and/or Jen about preparing for the holidays (though Jen brings up complaints about Jonesy and his brothers at several points) or being stressed out about working at the mall at Christmastime.
A Flintstone Family Christmas
Wilma, Betty, and (the adult) Pebbles are in this one, but most of it revolves around a homeless boy the Flintstones take in. Barely passes, I guess, with one scene where Pebbles calls Wilma to tell her her family’s delayed at the airport.
A Flintstones Christmas Carol
Wilma, Betty, Pebbles, and several one-shot women characters appear in this one. A lot of Wilma and Betty’s dialogue is griping about Fred’s boorish behavior.
However, there’s several moments where Wilma and Betty (and one or two other actresses) talk about preparing for the play, or substituting for several actresses who’ve fallen ill. Wilma’s also in charge of producing the play.
The Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas
The strongest special on the list to pass the Bechdel Test, given the girl protagonists (and antagonist). Other than talking about Santa (and to the Professor at the end), most of the conversations were about preparing for Christmas or dealing with Princess’ bratty behavior.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
This one surprisingly comes in strong as well, despite its mediocre nature (and the main focus being on Santa, Mr. Bucks, and Jake). Cousin Mel and her attorney (Ms. Slime) converse at several points about keeping Grandma from being found in order to carry out their scheme. Also, Cousin Mel and Grandma argue early in the special about selling the store.
There’s also a woman judge (toward the end, during the trial scenes) and several other female characters, including Mrs. Claus.
Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July
A scene has the circus owner remind her daughter about how she’s improperly performing a high-wire act. Crystal (Frosty’s wife) also talks to her two kids, a son and a daughter. Narrowly passes, I guess.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Lucy gives Frieda her role in the play; Frieda asks if innkeepers’ wives have “naturally curly hair.” Patty and Violet talk to each other briefly later on, though it’s complaining about Charlie Brown.
A Garfield Christmas
One scene has Jon’s mother and grandmother converse with each other over their respective gravy recipes. The two also briefly interact in a few other scenes.
Slightly off-topic: Grandma at one point says she’s the “Greene County gravy champion”; Greene County is a county in Indiana, whose largest town is Bloomington, home of Indiana University. However, “Garfield” creator Jim Davis lives near Muncie, Indiana, the home of Ball State University.
Yogi’s First Christmas
This special has two female characters (Mrs. Throckmorton and Cindy Bear). However, while both have roles in the special (the former particularly), the two never converse with each other on-camera.
Casper’s First Christmas
No female characters.
Wilma and Betty play their usual prominent roles, but their conversations were about Fred playing Santa at the department store. There’s minor appearances by several of the department store’s female staff members.
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Several women and girls are present, but none of them have conversations with each other.
A Flintstone Christmas
Wilma and Betty are here again, but mostly talk about getting Fred to play Santa, and why he’s so late to show up at the party.
Cave Kids Christmas
Pebbles is the only female character.
Frosty the Snowman/Suzy Snowflake/Hardrock, Coco, and Joe
Only a few female characters (Suzy herself, and a few of the children who build Frosty), but since they’re just animated shorts that’re musicals, there’s no room for conversing with anyone.
Christmas Comes to Pac-Land
Two female characters (Ms. Pac-Man and Sue the Ghost Monster), but neither talks to the other. Sue being a villain probably doesn’t help in this regard.
Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales
Only three female characters in this special (Petunia, playing Porky’s wife, plus an unnamed younger girl pig as their daughter, and the voice of Mrs. Claus in the Bugs vs. Taz episode). However, Petunia/the girl have no speaking lines.
The other major Looney Tunes Christmas special, “Bah Humduck,” does give a sizable role to Porky’s daughter, but Petunia isn’t present.
Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws
Dee Dee and Dexter’s Mom are in this one, but neither converse with each other.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
By the special’s nature, the only other character with a speaking role besides the Grinch himself is Cindy Lou Who, who only speaks to the Grinch.
Frosty the Snowman
Karen and the children’s teacher are the only female characters in the special with a major presence, though they don’t speak to each other.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
While there are women in the special, they only talk to each other about Rudolph. Never mind the bits where Donner tells Mrs. Donner “this is man’s work” when she proposed helping find Rudolph.
Also not helping is the narrator stating the best thing to do (after the defeat of the Abominable Snow Monster) was to “get the women back to Christmastown.”
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Jessica and Tanta Kringle have large roles, but don’t talk to each other.
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Though Mrs. Claus is basically the star of the special, the story’s about her husband’s depressive funk. While Mrs. Claus does talk to Mother Nature, it’s about trying to give Santa a holiday (via a swap in weather patterns).
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
Crystal (Frosty’s wife) and a young girl (not the original special’s Karen, for some reason) are in this one, but don’t talk to each other.
That makes eight that pass the Bechdel Test, and 16 (or 18 if the black and white shorts are counted separately) that fail.
Not surprisingly, the failures come from the older Christmas specials, though one of the all-time most popular specials, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” still narrowly passes. “Peanuts” did even better in later holiday specials, particularly “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown,” thanks to Peppermint Patty and Marcie.
And once again, it’s too bad they don’t air “A Garfield Christmas” on TV these days.