named after eisner award-winning graphic novelist allison bechdel, the rule indicates bechdel's personal preference to only watch films featuring 1. at least two female character who... 2. talk to each other about... 3. ...something besides a man.
a similar rule, named after the st. petersburg times tv critic eric deggans, compliments a show for having 1. at least two non-white characters in the main cast... 2. ...in a show that is not about race.
in the context of the landscape of television, it's clear why the bechdel and deggans rules are interesting indicators: few shows - even in our multi-cultural age of gender empowerment - truly portray characters of varying races whose concerns actually echo those of real people..."the middleman" even as a wacky sci-fi show, manages to showcase characters whose ethnicities and gender (as reflected in their search for love) are not the ne plus ultra of their entire being.
further doing honor to our happy little show, the culture warriors of npr have coined a rule from the middleman's own natalie morales...the "morales rule" applies to the non-strereotypical portrayal of latinos in television, citing shows in which 1. no one calls anyone "papi'... 2. ...no one dances to salsa music... and 3. no gratuitous spanish...
...and while i have been known to call my father "papi" on a regular basis, i certainly prefer my latino characters to be simply characters, instead of signifiers of their own ethnicity...hence wendy watson.
here's a snippet, from NPR's pop culture blog about the bechdel rule:
The Middleman: Follows the Bechdel Rule so well that it was the reason we began talking about the rule here at NPR. Mind-boggling: It's science fiction — that traditional fortress of geek-maledom — but the character we identify with is a young woman. (And an artist.) She talks to her roommate about art events, vegan protests and their mothers; they're concerned with politics and creativity as well as boyfriends. "I know that the hot show on ABC Family right now is The Secret Life of the American Teenager," says NPR editor Sara Sarasohn, "but if my daughter were a teenager, I'd be making her watch The Middleman every week." Bonus: By default it follows the Morales Rule, because Natalie Morales plays the lead.
and here's a link to the original NPR story!