11 Nov – Usually, movie ratings to tell you whether a film contains nudity, sex, profanity or violence. Now cinemas in Sweden are introducing a new rating to highlight the inequality of genders.
To get an A rating, a movie must have three things. It has to have at least two [named] women in it, who talk to each other and about something besides a man. The rating is based on a test made popular in 1985 by the comic strip artist Alison Bechdel.
"We are tired that it's been nearly 30 years since the Bechdel Test was introduced and still most films nominated at the Oscars and the Gold Bug (Swedish equivalent) don't meet the criteria," an independent Swedish cinema group said in a statement last month when it launched the ratings system.
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", said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm's trendy Södermalm district.
He also noted 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. 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, Tejle also added.
Support for the Bechdel test ratings has led critics to complain about state interference in Swedish cultural life, "If this leads to future film makers thinking about these issues during the creative process then it's dangerous. Lots of explicitly feminist films would never have passed the test," said Jan Holmberg, a film researcher and head of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation.
But there are also industry insiders who responded well, "We need this... to show how absurd it is that the film industry is so unequal when it comes to who's telling stories, who's directing and how women are portrayed," said Lisa Bergstroem, a film critic and producer at a Swedish public radio station.