You expect a movie to warn you about profanity, nudity, or violence, but you can’t always anticipate a film’s gender bias.
For those unacquainted, the Bechdel test has only three simple rules:
1) There are two women with names in the film.
2) They talk to each other at some point.
3) They talk to each other about something other than a man.
So far four Swedish movie theaters have launched the new system to draw attention to gender inequity in film. Most visitors have reacted positively to the initiative according to Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, one of the cinemas using the rating.
Ellen Tejle, the director of art-house movie theater Bio Rio in Stockholm, holds a Bechdel test approval A certificate.
“For some people it has been an eye-opener,” said Tejle, who claimed that movie viewers rarely see “a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them.”
Cable TV channel Viasat Film will also use the rating in its film reviews, and has scheduled a “Super Sunday,” on Nov. 17 when it will only show films that pass the test, like The Hunger Games, The Iron Lady, and Savages.
Not all support the feminist rating.
“I guess it does make sense, but to me it would not influence the way I watch films because I’m not so aware about these questions,” said Vincent Fremont, 29, a student.
“There are far too many films that pass the Bechdel test that don’t help at all in making society more equal or better,” said Swedish film critic Hynek Pallas. “And lots of films that don’t pass the test are fantastic at those things.”
According to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women accounted for 33% of all characters and only 11% of the protagonists of the top 100 U.S. films of 2011.
“Apparently Hollywood thinks that films with male characters will do better at the box office,” said Amy Bleakley, who led a University of Pennsylvania study that showed the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained stagnant at a two to one ratio for six decades.
“Most of the aspects of movie-making — writing, production, direction, and so on — are dominated by men,” she said. “So it is not a surprise that the stories we see are those that tend to revolve around men.”