How Sexist is Your Movie?

Published: 14 November 2013

Country: Sweden

lordofringsThe Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Avatar or Gravity are three examples of films that would not gain an A rating on gender equality. Sweden has introduced the rating system on gender bias with the aim of raising awareness about how much women are under-representated in the film industry today.

To receive the A rating, the movie must pass the so-called Bechdel Test that implies that the film must contain at least two named women characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. For example, in the entire 10-hour trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, no women characters ever speak to each other.

Four movie theatres in Sweden, in collaboration with the state-funded Swedish Film Institute, have adopted this initiative to expose the bias in films and make the film industry to consider future changes towards gender equality.

Ellen Tejle, director of one of the four organisations piloting the scheme stated that this initiative has been for some people “an eye-opener”, being the goal to see “more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens.”

The promoters state in their website that “A rate is not a mark of equality. It just informs consumers that “in this film there are at least two women with names talking to each other about something other than a man”.

The Bechdel test, which got its name from American cartoonist Alison Bechdel who introduced the joke in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985, has its supporters but also its detractors.

There are far too many films that pass the Bechdel test that don’t help at all in making society more equal or better, and lots of films that don’t pass the test but are fantastic at those things,” said the Swedish film Cirtic Hynek Pallas in The Guardian.

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.