When illustrator Alison Bechdel created her famous, eponymous test for gender bias in 1985, the world was a different place. We were a pre-Internet, pre-Bikini Kill, and pre-Leslie Knope society that tended to marginalize women as much in pop culture as in real life. Cut to nearly three decades later, and things are… well, the jury is still out on how much they’ve actually improved.
In an era when (non-romantic) comedies starring women are considered “ground-breaking” just by virtue of their rareness, clearly we have a long way to go. At least Swedish cinemas now seem determined to help moviegoers get there, though.
A group of four movie theaters in Sweden have adopted a new rating system to expose gender bias–if a film passes the Bechdel Test, it gets an A rating. Qualifying films must a.) have at least two women with names, who b.) talk to each other and c.) talk about something other than a man. The paradox of this test is that it seems simple enough to meet these requirements, and yet countless films fail to do so each year. (Recent failures include The Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness, and of course Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain.)
The net effect of so many films failing this test is that women are both underrepresented and mischaracterized in films constantly. According to the research cited in the Guardian, “of the top 100 U.S. films in 2011, women accounted for 33% of all characters and only 11% of the protagonists.” Perhaps the move these theaters in Sweden are making, which is supported by the state-funded Swedish Film Institute, is a sign that lots of people are starting to get sick of it.
The signs are showing on TV as well. Scandinavian channel Viasat Film is set to start using the ratings in film reviews, and it’s even arranged an A-rated movie marathon on an upcoming Sunday in November, when it will show only films that pass the test, such as The Hunger Games, The Iron Lady and Savages.
If nothing else, the presence of the A-rating will help create awareness for the overwhelming amount of dude-focused films. At least now you know that by guiltily sneaking off to see Catching Fire over the next couple weeks, you’re quietly helping to eliminate gender bias at the cineplex.
H/t to The Guardian.