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What Happened After Swedish Theaters Introduced a Bechdel Rating for Its Movies?

What Happened After Swedish Theaters Introduced a Bechdel Rating for Its Movies?

This is the first of three dispatches from the 2016 Gothenburg International Film Festival

The Bechdel Test is a vastly imperfect tool for gauging a film’s feminism and gender progressivism. And yet we couldn’t help cheering when four movie theaters in famously egalitarian Sweden announced back in 2013 that they would provide an “A” rating — signaled generally with a seal on a film’s poster — to features that passed cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s brief test of three questions: Are there at least two women characters with names in the film? Do they talk to each other? About something other than a man?

The best use of the Bechdel test, explains Ellen Tejle, the movie theater director and programmer who created the A rating system, is not to apply a litmus test on each individual film, but to encourage audiences to think critically about the media that they’re watching. And on that basis, her A rating system has been more than successful. 

Here’s how Tejle’s modest proposal has grown and bloomed in less than three years: 

–Swedish films are now 2.5x more likely to pass the Bechdel test since the A rating’s implementationIn 2013, only 30% of Swedish feature films passed the Bechdel test. The next year, that rate jumped to 60%, and in 2015, a whopping 80% of films earned an A rating seal. 

–The A rating system is now a feature in 30 movie theaters. In addition to the seal seen above, consumers are informed of a film’s Bechdel test passage by a brief trailer that runs before the start of the movie. The A rating seal has also begun to appear on DVD covers. 

–Students are being taught about the Bechdel test in schools. Awareness of gender and racial diversity issues in film is now an educational goal in ten Swedish cities. 

–The Bechdel test has inspired more discussion about diversity as a whole. In fact, the Chavez Perez test — which determines whether two minority characters in a movie speak about something other than crime — is in the midst of implementation. Only 10% of Swedish films passed the test in 2013. (Stateside, Manohla Dargis recently proposed the “DuVernay test,” to see whether “African-Americans and other minorities have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories.”

Either way, here’s hoping the new test finds the triumph in Sweden that the Bechdel test has so far. 

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Identity Politicians

These ratings will just promote more tribalism. People going to movies because they’re predigested to agree with their social justice motives, rather than the actual quality of the aesthetics or filmmaking or storytelling. Tallying minorities is the most facile criticism possible.


Except the market in question IS free. The theatres freely applied the label, and were not regulated to do so, and the movie studios freely reacted by making their movies align more with the rating, again with zero regulation. That’s the definition of a free market. Either the movie studios were proactive because they BELIEVED people would prefer movies with the "A" rating, or they saw actual trends in the market and society which implied the effort was worth it, but it doesn’t matter what their motives are. They did it without regulation being introduced. That you understand so little about what a free market even is, yet spill your vitriol in the active attempt to avoid understanding the issues that affect others in the quiet comfort of anonymity, is the only disgusting thing around here. But hey, it’s the internet, what do you expect.


    Not really, Crias. Ellen Tejle is working in a corporatism basis with the state. Search for a state promo video named “Gender Equality within Swedish Film Industry” on YouTube.


To make good decision on a free markets, you need to have good information. That rating provide just that. It make people aware and they can take the decision they want about what the consume.


Wow, Holycow, you must be drunk to a stupor on your Kool-Aid.
Since when does it any good to "rely" on free markets, since there are no free markets in realiter? And since when do values like ethics or morale factor into any free market driven decision? Right, never. That’s why it is a plain waste of time to decode your pseude-libertarian gibberish.


This is simply disgusting. Instead of relying on free markets to push and make for more movies, we will implement another separatist tool onto unsuspecting consumers to force them to engage in nonsensical victim laden social issues that don’t exist. This is why the term regressive liberalism is being thrown around so much.

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