One of the downsides of Hollywood’s stronghold on the international entertainment scene is that it not only exports its films to other countries, but also the films’ sexist content. Fortunately, Sweden has come up with a method to help challenge these backwards values. Several of the nation’s movie theaters have begun issuing grades to films that specifically address a lack of female representation.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Sweden’s ratings are based upon the popular Bechdel Test. Created in 1985, the test has just three requirements:
- The film must have at least two named female characters.
- The female characters must have a conversation.
- The conversation must be about something other than a man.
Truthfully, the test is essentially a minimum standard of decency for portraying women. Plenty of films pass the Bechdel Test’s bare requirements without being remotely feminist or even presenting women favorably. Keeping that in mind, it is even more embarrassing that approximately half of Hollywood films still fail at this lenient measurement.
Likely, that is precisely what Sweden is trying to point out. The rating system isn’t complicated: films that withstand the Bechdel Test automatically receive an “A”. Unlike the country’s age-restrictive ratings (similar to PG, PG-13, and R in the United States), the feminist grade has no bearing on who is permitted to see the film. Instead, the rating merely serves as a warning to movie-goers who prefer to see women represented in cinema. However, at least one theater has decided to begin screening more films that receive the “A” grade.
Given Sweden’s progressive attitude toward gender equality, it’s not that surprising that the country has rebelled against the sexist media it imports. Perhaps the bigger question is: will the United States, the same country producing most of these sexist films, ever consider a similar rating system?
It doesn’t seem likely. Besides, movie ratings in this country are already a money-fueled sham, so how could we trust their ratings? If the film industry had any interest in focusing on gender equality, it would just go ahead and introduce more female protagonists and characters who have concerns other than men.
The good news is that American movie-going audiences don’t need an “official” rating system to tackle this problem. The Bechdel Test already has a useful website that explains whether specific movies (both current and old) meet the aforementioned standards. Visitors are invited to rate, comment and debate, as well.
The website is a great resource to prevent yourself from accidentally paying to see a film that considers female characters nothing more than love interests. If audiences demonstrate that they care about female characters by watching Bechdel-approved films and skipping those that fail what should be an easy test, then it might start sending a message to studios about the types of films we wish to see.