Movie theatres in Sweden are introducing a new rating system to highlight the scarcity of women in movies. It’s a Bechdel test rating. That’s not even a joke or a figure of speech: they’re using the Bechdel test.
I love Sweden.
To get an A rating, a movie must pass the so-called Bechdel test, which means it must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.
“The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test,” said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm’s trendy Södermalm district.
Bio Rio is one of four Swedish cinemas that launched the new rating last month to draw attention to how few movies pass the Bechdel test. Most filmgoers have reacted positively to the initiative. “For some people it has been an eye-opener,” said Tejle.
It’s especially pathetic about Harry Potter, isn’t it. J. K. Rowling is after all a woman.
Beliefs about women’s roles in society are influenced by the fact that movie watchers rarely see “a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them”, Tejle said, noting that the rating doesn’t say anything about the quality of the film. “The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens,” he added.
In the hope that maybe, someday, a few centuries from now, people will at last start to realize that women aren’t quasi-human or partly human or almost human, but really actually fully human.
The A rating is the latest Swedish move to promote gender equality by addressing how women are portrayed in the public sphere.
Sweden’s advertising ombudsman watches out for sexism in that industry and reprimands companies seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes, for example by including skimpily clad women in their adverts for no apparent reason.
Since 2010, the Equalisters project has been trying to boost the number of women appearing as expert commentators in Swedish media through a Facebook page with 44,000 followers. The project has recently expanded to Finland, Norway and Italy.
So where are the people shouting about radical feminism? Oh, they’re there.
“If they want different kind of movies they should produce some themselves and not just point fingers at other people,” said Tanja Bergkvist, a physicist who writes a blog about Sweden’s “gender madness”.
Good thinking. If the culture ignores women, just make a new culture yourself and not just point fingers at other people. That’s easy enough isn’t it? Making a new culture single-handed? Producing better movies because you want better movies?
Research in the US supports the notion that women are under-represented on the screen and that little has changed in the past 60 years.
Of the top 100 US films in 2011, women accounted for 33% of all characters and only 11% of the protagonists, according to a study by the San Diego-based Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Another study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained at about two to one for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950-2006, showed female characters were twice as likely to be seen in explicit sexual scenes as males, while male characters were more likely to be seen as violent.
And if you don’t like it, it’s up to you as an individual to create an alternative. Your time starts now.