Comedians Caitlin Durante and Jamie Loftus aren’t trying to ruin your favorite movies. But if they do, they’ll at least make you cringe and laugh.
Their film podcast, The Bechdel Cast, invites listeners to view beloved and classic films through a feminist lens. And, while the hosts take their task seriously, they never drag conversations into overly academic or self-serious territory. Conversations on The Bechdel Cast are as playful as they are challenging.
The name is a play on the Bechdel Test, an internet-era metric based on an Alison Bechdel comic. It simply asks: Does a film have two female characters? Do they appear on-screen together? Do they engage in at least one conversation where they discuss something besides a man?
The podcast’s title is more than a cheeky reference, and the hosts apply it liberally with varied results. Titanic, for example, passes with flying colors. Love, Actually, not so much. Even the hosts themselves are surprised at times.
“I was surprised that The Princess Bride, which in theory revolves around a female protagonist, is not great,” Loftus tells the Daily Dot.
“I used to love it but then I was like, ‘Oh my God she doesn’t do anything!’” adds Durante.
But no matter how dismally a film fairs, the conversation never gets dreary. This is thanks in part to the charming and hilarious guests who Durante and Loftus invite to share a favorite film, which they then gleefully review and dissect. Guests include Aparna Nancherla, Sophia Benoit, Paige Weldon, and even a few straight white men.
“We do tie all of our male guests to the chair at the beginning of the episode,” Loftus says.
The hosts ask their guests to select films that are near and dear to them, and the results are always joyful. Listening to Benoit, for example, defend The Runaway Bride as the perfect film for punishing a wayward boyfriend adds levity to the analytical dialogue that follows.
Durante and Loftus also possess self-awareness of their respective approaches to feminist film critique. Durante, a screenwriter and self-described film buff, explains: “I’ve loved movies all my life and [before starting the podcast] I was noticing that all my favorite movies were male dominated, male protagonists, almost exclusively male characters, and I wanted to reconcile that… I’m coming from the perspective of ‘Oh, I used to love this movie [as a kid] but my judgment was clouded.’”
Loftus on the other hand, is hardly a cinephile.
“I’m the shrug emoji,” she adds.
The resulting dynamic creates a podcast that is thoughtful, smart, and entertaining. Admittedly I recoiled when a discussion of Heathers, one of my own personal favorites, wasn’t a perpetual celebration of hair, outfits, and dark humor. But when the hosts asked what, in fact, the film’s protagonist would have done if a male lead hadn’t arrived at her high school and directed her to off several friends, I felt an urgent need to revisit the film with a fresh perspective.
“We’re encouraging people to take a look at movies they love and look at it from [a new] perspective. It doesn’t mean you can’t love the movie but [we want listeners to] acknowledge and consider the inherent bias towards female characters,” Loftus says.
It’s a battle worth waging, the duo notes.
“I just want people to support movies directed, written by, and starring women because if those movies make money there will be more of them,” Durante says.
New episodes of The Bechdel Cast are released on Thursdays. It’s available on iTunes and Podbay.