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Does Sailor Moon Pass The Bechdel Test?

A popular topic in feminist analysis of pop culture is The Bechdel Test. What is the Bechdel Test you ask? It’s rather simple really, but I love this explanation by Anita at Feminist Frequency:

Ok, so does Sailor Moon have two or more women who have names? YES! Do they talk to each other? YES! Do they talk to each other about something other than dudes? YES! YAHOO! HOLLYWOOD TAKE NOTE!

The third criteria fascinates me the most. What do women and girls talk about other than dudes? Heck, what do the sailor guardians talk about? At my panel at Senshi Matsuri 2013, the audience gave a lot of examples–the sailor guardians talk about the enemies, how to beat the enemies, how they will punish the enemies, why they are punishing the enemies (hello there Sailor Moon’s intro speech!) school, homework, entrance exams, video games, Sailor V, food, each other, and how to help that special someone featured in the episode.

I must admit Sailor Moon doesn’t always pass the Bechdel Test–Usagi loves talking about Mamoru, Makoto can’t forget her ex-boyfriend and Minako is a huge Three Lights fan, just to name a few. Here’s a clip from the English dub which passes the Bechdel Test until the very end:

One of the reasons why we talk about the Bechdel Test, as Anita notes, is that even today women and girls are not well represented in media. In fact, of the top grossing films in 2012, only 28% of the speaking roles were women. Women are over 50% of the US population and they have only 28% of the movie speaking roles?! ARGH!!

It seems to me that Hollywood could easily improve these numbers by simply making a Sailor Moon live action movie(s), no? 🙂


{ 16 comments… add one }
  • angie July 18, 2013, 00:04

    I think it’s worth pointing out that in SM… those are well-rounded conversations, for teenage girls. Much better than what some live-action US shows about the same age group portray..

  • Adam July 26, 2013, 16:15

    I always think of the Bechdel test when watching movies. About half seem to pass it. Very few fail the reverse Bechdel test, which is having two men not talk to each other about something that’s not a woman. It’s possible many Sailor Moon episodes and movies fail reverse Bechdel, though when counting the entire 200 episode series as a whole I’m sure it happens.

    Let me think about it for a moment. Hm. Nephlite talks to the young photographer boy about photography. That was harder than it should have been.

    • Anne Lee July 26, 2013, 17:54

      That’s a good point. Did you see Iron Man 3? I laughed at the scene where Pepper is with the lady scientist and they are talking about her research. It felt so tacked on that I thought, “You guys are clearly trying to pass the Bechdel Test here arentcha?” LOL

      • Adam July 29, 2013, 12:25

        Haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet. I wonder if any filmmakers have gone out of their way to add a scene just to pass the Bechdel test.

  • Konrad Nikiel June 20, 2014, 17:06

    I try to understand what is the point in things like for example above mentioned Bechdel test. What is the problem with girls talking about boys or boys talking about girls? For me it’s another unnecessary attempt to making “pedagogically correct” (and the same time boring) media, but SM (and many other japanese series) aren’t political or pedagogically correct, and maybe that’s why they are more interesting than these from western countries.

    Act 36, first press manga
    Minako & Makoto:
    Ooh, I want a boyfriend!
    …That’s all you think about.
    Why, it’s a natural
    desire for high school girls.

    The Kodansha translation can be different, but I use Magikarp46 fan translation (http://magikarp46.com/sailormoon/bssm-act36.php)

    Of course the same with boys, they want to have girlfriends, and I don’t see any problem with that.

    • SM Fan Nr 901234 June 22, 2014, 19:33

      I agree.

      I don’t see what’s the big deal about women ( or men for that matter) talking about romance or something else involving men (or women,in case it’s men who are talking),so as long as conversation is wholesome and isn’t ”out of character”( can you imagine Ami/Mercury actively talking about romance without blushing).

    • Anne Lee June 23, 2014, 01:59

      The problem is that girls and women have a lot more going on in their lives than just boys and romance. Heck, that even means girls and romance! See: Michiru & Haruka. And when female characters stop talking about dudes, that means you can show that lesbians exist and play a very important role in the story. 🙂

      • Konrad Nikiel June 23, 2014, 04:13

        What is more important than love in live? I think you forget about core of the Sailor Moon, which was love, even Ms Takeuchi said that every her work is about love. Usagi’s dream was to be a wife and mother. In Dream Arc and Stars Arc it was visible that She can’t live without Mamoru (mostly in Dream arc, in Stars She thought about her friends and daughter too), and what is wrong with that? You can say that protecting the planet was more important, but only people who has someone who support them (in Usagi’s case Mamoru) can achieve their goals and fulfilling their mission. Chibiusa even said that “Women need men, because without them they cannot have children”, I’m writing this from memory, but it’s from Chibiusa picture diary “Tanatabata Story”.

        Of course I’m not talking only about heterosexual love, but in SM Usagi’s relationships is more exposed so I use heterosexual example, but love is love.

        You said that “girls can talk about girls and romance too”. I wonder how long eventual lesbian would be with person who have “more going on in their lives than just GIRLS and romance”, it’s the same situation, but only men are bad, lesbian love is “ok” but heterosexual love is “suppression of women”. Maybe feminists should reconsider their program, because even some liberated women don’t call themselves as feminists, I read once a blog written by woman, Her opinion about feminists was very harsh, but She wasn’t any religious and conservative person, She had very liberated point of view.

        Personally I see a lot of similarity between feminism and abrahamic ideology, Roman women who converted them to Christianity refused to sleep with their husbands because “it was abomination against God” and other crap, now Feminsts replace God with other things like “higher purposes”, which in fact are created only to manipulate people and pull them away from what is important in life.

        • Anne Lee June 23, 2014, 13:58

          There is nothing wrong about love, but a lot of media focuses on it too much.

          I think there are some similarities between feminism and religion. Both feminism and religion consist of a lot of “shoulds” as in “This is how I think people should be treated. This is the right this to do.” Unfortunately, religion also treats female sexuality harshly, something which feminism opposes.

          • Konrad Nikiel June 24, 2014, 02:42

            But I think that we shouldn’t use any regulations what kind of content should or shouldn’t be in medias, it’s only killing creativity. I think that sailor Moon would be worse show if it doesn’t contain Tuxedo Kamen (I talk about love interest, I wouldn’t mind if it was woman) and their relationship development through all 5 series. That’s the reason why I like girl’s shows more, for example 70s Magical Girls series, they talk about feelings and teach the sensitivity, and dealt with problems in life, Majokko Megu-chan gone really far, it dealt even with suicide, domestic violence and other darker sides of live, but this series is complete only in Japanese, the Italian version (and because of that polish and portugal) is cutted to 63 episodes from 72.

            If we talk about religions (especially abrahamic) they aren’t treat harshly only women’s sexuality, but all mankind. They are unnatural and make only havoc on this planet. If you read Eden story in bible with understand (really, everybody knows this story, but nobody interpret it), you realize that God only enslaved humans, but thanks to Snake/Satan which (who?) convinced Adam and Eve to eat forbidden fruit should be considered as hero, thanks to him people began to thinking, instead being slaves of God and his sick rules. Remember that Crystal Tokyo utopia is named “abomination toward God” by Prince Demande.

          • Anne Lee June 24, 2014, 15:23

            We already do use a lot of regulation in media–it just depends on what we are regulating.

          • Konrad Nikiel June 24, 2014, 22:44

            But it’s not means we should create them even more, I think we should delete almost all, maybe except for shows created for children, but people over 13 are able to handle more mature topics and I don’t see a reason to censor or regulate them.

  • yoi November 5, 2018, 01:09

    theres nothing wrong with usagi almost not passing the bechdel test and almost always talking about Mamoru. in real life there actually ARE some girls that are like that(only talking about their boyfriends) . but whats important is that some girls in the show DO pass the test

    thats they beauty of sailor moon. it has diverse female characters. some will pass the test and some wont. and thats perfectly fine because not all females are the same. some will like to talk about boys all the time and some wont. that is what the show is telling us.

    if none of the girls had that characteristic is would be a little unrealistic because theres ALWAYS that girl you know in real life that cant stop talking about her boyfriend lol.

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