Chick Flicks You’ll Actually Want To See: There’s a New Feminist Ratings System For Movies

Julie Gerstein

Thelma-and-Louise

In Sweden—just as in the U.S.—movie ratings are doled out based on the levels of things like sex, drugs, and violence. But at some theaters in the Nordic country, they’re also judged on how feminist-friendly they are.

A select number of theaters have taken to employing what’s called the Bechdel Test—based on comic artist Alison Bechdel’s wry observations on women in media—to rate films. The aim of the rating is to highlight gender bias in movies, and movies that fail to pass the test won’t get a passing grade.

What’s the Bechdel Test? It’s pretty simple. In order to pass it, a film must have:

1. Two women with names in the film.
2. The women must talk to each other at some point.
3. They must talk to each other about something other than a man.

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You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to find films that meet that criteria, but it’s actually pretty tricky. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Social Network,” “The Big Lebowski,” and even “The Princess Bride” fail to pass the Bechdel test.

One of the theaters opting into the feminist rating system is Stockholm’s Bio Rio. Ellen Tejle, a spokeswoman for the art-house cinema, said the new ratings system “has been an eye-opener,” and that it’s pushed the theater to find more female-centered films. “The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens.”

So far, only four theaters are taking part in the initiative, but Tejle hopes the Bechdel rating system will spread, and to be honest, so do we.

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It could be helpful, considering that just 33 percent of all characters in the top 100 films in 2011 were women. And women accounted for just 11 percent of all protagonists in the stories, according to research from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

But ironically, even when a woman makes the movie, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the movie will pass the Bechdel Test. Case in point: Kathryn Bigelow’s war movie “The Hurt Locker,” which didn’t even come close to making the Bechdel grade.

What do you think of Sweden’s feminist ratings system? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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