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This was asked somewhat in jest in the (now-deleted) comments to another question I posted, and it got me curious: Do "Conan" movies pass Bechdel test? They are based on notoriously non-Bechdel-friendly pulp fantasy origins; and seem to be positioned as typical "entertain teenage males" summer action blockbusters by the studios.

Conan movies (at least the ones I know of) include John Milius's "Conan the Barbarian", "Conan the Destroyer", the new 2011 "Conan the Barbarian 3D" reboot, and, if you squint hard enough, "Red Sonya"[1].


[1] - They named the Schwarzenegger character "Kalidor", but in the comics and Howard's work, Red Sonya is set in Conan universe, and Kalidor clearly was intended to evoke Conan for the viewers by virtue of the actor - though I'm still seeking official proof. They couldn't re-use Conan name, because Red Sonja was co-produced with Famous Films. Since Universal still technically had the rights to film Conan, they couldn't give the character over to Famous Films.

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TL;DR: Somewhat surprisingly to my expectations given Conan movie reputation, the answer is "Yes" for all but the original "Conan the Barbarian" (which fails due to only having one named female character).


Conan the Barbarian - You shall not pass!

  1. Has 2+ named women characters: No.

    Valeria is named. As far as I know, the princess, Conan's mother and the witch aren't, at least according to IMDB. No other speaking female characters I recall.

    As a matter of fact, even Valeria is questionable: Wiki says "Valeria's name is not spoken in the film; the only scene where she was named, her self-introduction, was cut".

  2. They talk to each other: Clearly, no.

  3. ... about something besides a man: Clearly, no.

    On the plus side, Valeria mostly talks about looting and fighting.


Red Sonja - Yes

  1. Has 2+ named women characters: Sonya herslf; Queen Gedren; Varna (Red Sonja's Sister); Kendra the High Priestess.
  2. They talk to each other: Yes (see #3)
  3. ... about something besides a man: Yes.

    • Varna tells Sonja what happened at the temple, and urges her to find the Talisman and destroy it.

    • Sonya discusses their common past with Gedren; as well as discusses Talisman with her. Men aren't even in the picture.


Conan the Destroyer: - Yes

As a matter of fact, Overthinkingit.com "Conan the Liberal" article claims (somewhat hyperbolically I think) that "Conan the Destroyer ... is... the only fantasy movie I’m aware of to pass the famous Bechdel test".

  1. Has 2+ named women characters: Zula, Queen Taramis, Princess Jehnna
  2. They talk to each other: Yes (see #3)
  3. ... about something besides a man: Yes.

    • Queen Taramis and Princess Jehnna talk about Jehnna's nightmare.
    • Queen Taramis asks Princess Jehnna to bring the "treasure" to her.
    • Zula and Princess Jehnna discuss Zula becoming her Captain of the Guard. This one nails it.

Conan the Barbarian remake - Yes

  1. Has 2+ named women characters: Tamara, Marique, Maliva (Marique's mother)
  2. They talk to each other: Yes (see #3)
  3. ... about something besides a man: Yes.

    • Tamara and Marique discuss resurrecting Marique's mother:

      MARIQUE
      My mother wore this gown on her wedding day. It flatters you.
      TAMARA
      I am NOT your mother.
      MARIQUE
      No, but you will be. Imagine your body is a vessel and your soul is the water that fills it. When your blood seeds the mask, my father will empty you. And my mother’s soul will rise.
      TAMARA
      I would rather die.

    This was actually deliberate - according to the screenwriter's post on Quora (oups? am I allowed to say that word on SE?) he explicitly changed the villain from a man to a woman just to pass the test.

  • Are we going with the “the women must be named characters” requirement then? I only ask because the comic where the rule/test was conceived doesn’t include it. – Paul D. Waite Feb 4 '14 at 7:52
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    @PaulD.Waite - I don't think either interpretation would change the answer. None of the unnamed women talked to each other in the original Conan to the best of my recollection. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 4 '14 at 8:12
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    @DVK: sure, and it doesn't hurt to include information on whether tha characters are named whilst we're documenting it. – Paul D. Waite Feb 4 '14 at 9:25
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    @AnthonyGrist - disapproval of an officially encouraged by SE idea of answering your own question is NOT a valid reason for downvoting a valid answer ("this answer is not useful") and is an abuse of the downvoting priviledge. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 24 '14 at 15:39
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    @AnthonyGrist - stackoverflow.com/help/self-answer – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 24 '14 at 15:46

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