Failing the Bechdel Test, Sweden leads the charge to change films!

As many of you might have heard, Sweden is currently working on integrating the Bechdel Test into their ratings system. If a film passes the test, it will be given an “A” rating by the cinemas using the ratings.

I gave a presentation to my Library Instruction class a few months ago on the Bechdel Test. When I got the feedback from my peers, one person wrote on their feedback sheet that it was both interesting and concerning. This is exactly the reaction I was looking for when I made the presentation.

The Bechdel Test is a way to measure gender representation within films. The basic criteria is based on several questions:

1. Is there more than one woman (with a name)?

2. Do they talk to each other?

3. About something other than a man?

Sounds easy, right?

Wrong.

There are so many films that don’t pass the test. Great films. Films that I enjoy. Pick any film. It probably doesn’t pass, few do.

Here’s what Melissa Silverstein has to say about this:

The Bechdel Test has never been about saying that one film or TV show or anything is better because it has women in it. The point is to highlight the lack of gender diversity that rules most of our popular media. Quality is a whole different conversation. It goes without saying that I have seen crappy movies and TV shows that pass the Bechdel Test.

– Melissa Silverstein, “Swedish Cinemas Push Hard for Gender Equality,

 

This isn’t really about grading films, or even condemning them. It’s a way to move in the right direction with regard to the representation and depiction of women in films.

If filmmakers start including just one other female main character (or minor character, I’m not picky right now) that walks in and talks to another female character about something other than a man just to pass the test. That’s great.

But what I see coming out of this is hopefully screenwriters will start including MULTIPLE well-rounded female characters in their screenplays and those screenplays will be made into films and girls and women will start seeing characters that reflect people they see in their everyday lives. These characters might even serve as role models for those girls and women. I hope that the US will follow Sweden’s example soon and change the rating system to make its viewers think about what they are watching.

If you are interested in this topic, read some of the links I have listed below.

If you don’t think this is a problem yet, then watch this video. That might change your mind.

More to read:

The Bechdel Test List

Feminist Frequency: The Bechdel Test

Salon.com: Sweden introduces a gender rating system for films

IndieWire.com: Swedish cinemas push hard for gender equality

ReelGirl: U.S. lags behind other countries in stopping sexism

The Mary Sue: Swedish Cinemas are integrating the Bechdel Test into their ratings

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