Feminist cartoonist Alison Bechdel came up with a test for gender bias in media, deemed the "Bechdel test." It states that a non-biased film must contain two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. Basically, it demands that women have vital roles in furthering the plot of a film and don't simply exist to compliment the male characters.
With the growth of great women in TV and film, a whole lot of things actually pass this test. And, to take it a step further, there are a few shows and movies that don't have two male characters who talk to each other about something other than a woman. Here are 6 Netflix picks that turn gender bias on its head:
1) Gilmore Girls
In this small town, mother-daughter comedy, all of the story lines revolve around the show's namesakes: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Other than a few short scenes wherein men argue in Stars Hollow town meetings, almost all of the conversations in the show are either with Lorelai and Rory or about them. The main male characters (Luke, Jess, Dean, and Logan) are defined by their relationships to the Gilmores, and are rarely in scenes that don't somehow further the main women's plots.
Also, "Gilmore Girls" was a feminist TV show before it was cool, so extra brownie points to them.
2) Life Partners
Starring Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs, this indie film adequately portrays what happens to two best friends when their lives take very different tracks. Like "OITNB" and all great things, it also gives a more realistic portrayal of lesbian culture, and isn't afraid to ignore Hollywood's conventional gender roles. There are few male characters other than Paige's (Gillian Jacobs) boyfriend, who basically just acts as a plot device to challenge the two girls' friendship.
Life Partners was also written and directed by women, and has SNL favorite Kate McKinnon in one of her weirdest roles yet.
We've loved Clueless since before we even labeled ourselves as feminists. Cher Horowitz taught us everything we needed to know about womanhood, and the film itself was forward thinking in its portrayal of women. Cher and Dionne were fashionable in both their clothing choices and their groundbreaking ideas for how women should be treated.
The movie was one of the first to feature high school girls, letting them be the stars without making them into sexual objects or plot devices. With few male characters, Clueless challenged the norm in a way most movies hadn't yet.
4) Mean Girls
Unlike Clueless, Mean Girls uses cliché high school stereotypes, but in the end they teach a pretty solid lesson about growing up. The "plastics" aren't exactly empowering female role models, but Cady's ultimate message, alongside her relationship with Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey), are feminist to the core. Plus, the few men in the movie are almost always seen with women or talking about them (or congratulating Glen Coco).
Alongside its girl power mantra, Mean Girls also gives a great shout-out to the women in the STEM community by having Cady conquer the mathlete competition. For steminists and feminists alike, it's definitely an important film.
5) The Powerpuff Girls
The Powerpuff Girls is yet another throwback show that probably had a role in millennial women's empowerment. Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup fight off the bad guys and conquer the world, all while maintaining their high-pitched voices and feminine appearances. Their male enemies rarely stand a chance against them, even though Hollywood norms would usually suggest otherwise.
This was the best cartoon for a Sunday morning when you just wanted to hear that being made of 'sugar, spice, and everything nice' isn't always so bad.
6) Orange is the New Black
Okay, this one is really obvious, but it still deserves to be acknowledged as groundbreaking. A show for women, about women, by women, starring people of color and elevating LGBT messages? All hail Jenji Khan.
Through OITNB, we've learned a bunch about the prison-industrial complex and the threats imposed on female inmates in the U.S. The world was also given the gifts of Laverne Cox, one of the first trans actresses, and Ruby Rose, another pioneer in gender-related social issues.
We're celebrating Netflix for its awesome new maternity leave policy, but the site has had great core values since the beginning.
There are plenty of other Netflix shows that push the envelope. You don't have to fail the male version of the Bechdel test to be feminist or forward-thinking, it's just inspiring to see how many things we can watch online that feature mostly women. Shows like Sense8, Parks and Recreation, and Grey's Anatomy also make way for to women and people of color by creating platforms that were basically non-existent ten years ago.