Gender treatment: the one subject the entirety of humanity agrees on all the time without fail. No wait, I must be thinking about something else. Two people in the same room generally have at least one conflicting view of either gender's roles in society, so international bonding over the subject is impossible. So it’s rather surprising that some theaters in Sweden will boldly examine gender bias in cinema by publicly posting films’ A-ratings according to the Bechdel Test, which examines the role women play in a film by asking three questions. A) Does it feature two female characters? B) Do they speak to each other? C) Do they speak to each other about something other than a man?
The Bechdel test, the creation of cartoonist Alison Bechdel, will be applied in four Swedishcinemas, and one of them is Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in a trendy district in Stockholm.
"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 Bio Rio director Ellen Tejle in an interview with The Guardian. Even though Teile says the Bechdel rating won't actually be a judgment on the movie's quality, it's unclear exactly what knowing a film has a Bechdel "A-rating" is supposed to tell people before paying for a film.
It’s somewhat troubling that the rating system is supported by the state-funded Swedish Film Institute and cable TV network Viasat Film, who said it would start using the rating system in its film reviews, and is airing only Bechdel test-passing films on a November 17 "Super Sunday", such as The Hunger Games and The Iron Lady. There’s been some public outcry, saying the SFI shouldn’t have a say in what movies should or should not include in their stories.
Another negative view comes from physicist Tanja Bergkvist, who writes a blog about Swedish "gender madness," who said, "If they want different kinds of movies they should produce some themselves and not just point fingers at other people." Seems like a narrow-minded view, but the basic point is clear. Female-fronted films like Gravity and Haywire, just by existing, will do more to promote more female-led pop cinema than pointing out George Clooney’s The Monuments Men has a shitload of dudes in it.
For social change, the A-rating is a noble but clumsy move, and probably won’t alter the cinematic landscape. If only we could start rating films based on their writing, acting, direction and overall quality instead of all this politically-fueled stuff.