What is it about Sweden? What’s in the water? On the heels of my recent piece about what the Swedish government is doing to combat the gender disparity in the directing ranks, now comes news that four Swedish cinemas are creating a gender rating for films using the Bechdel Test as the criteria.
The cinemas will hand out the A rating to films that pass the test. For the uninitiated, to pass the Bechdel Test you have to have two women talk to each other about something other than men. The reality is that most Hollywood movies wouldn’t pass the test and quite frankly, most indies wouldn’t pass either.
The rating is not any acknowledgement of quality, rather it seems to me to be an acknowledgement of the fact that we live in a world where women’s stories and experiences are not valued in the same way as male stories and experiences.
The rating has already caused a stir including with Swedish film critic Hynek Pallas (who by the way is a dude) saying: “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.”
To me that quote misses the point. 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.
This is clearly something that it on people’s minds – both pro and con. The AP story that got picked up in the Guardian has over 10,000 Facebook likes and 500 comments since it went up.
It would be great if we lived in a world where the media we consumed reflected the world we live in. That is not the case. By highlighted the gender disparity this allows us as a culture to confront these very difficult and much needed conversations.
Bring it on.