Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What If... We Changed Cinema Ratings

I've talked about the Bechdel Test a few times and have discussed this at length my sister and friends, so just to recap:

The Bechdel Test was first introduced in 1985 in Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For (see above). The comic strip entitled 'The Rule' featured an unnamed female character saying she would only watch a film if it satisfies 3 requirements. Those are:

1. The film has to have at least two women in it
2. The women have to talk to each other
3. The conversation they have has to be about something besides a man or men

Variants for the test have been mentioned, such as, the women characters have to be named and their conversations have to be longer than 60 seconds.
I also mentioned The Bechdel Test in another post last year when Empire magazine published a poll about the greatest film characters, which can be read HERE.

What made me think about the test lately, wasn't just about the Oscars and the rest of awards season or about just how many female screenwriters have written award nominated films or highly acclaimed film of late but aren't talked about, much, at all, BUT its also to do with an article on Indie Wire.
The article is about Swedish cinemas introducing a Bechdel Rating for the movie releases and the impact it had. The link to the article is HERE.The Guardian also covered the story back in 2013 HERE.

What has happened is that four cinemas in Sweden has introduced the rating. If the film passes the test, the three conditions, it is given an 'A' rating and it is featured on the poster. This was implemented so that audience was encouraged to 'think critically about the media that they're watching'.

The 'A' system was started and created by Ellen Tejle, the cinema director and programmer back in 2013 and since the success, it has grown to now 30 cinemas across the country. The Bechdel Test is also being taught in schools. It makes students aware of gender and racial diversity issues in films. 

I find that the biggest achievements, apart from the test being included in eductaion is that the industry is changing too. Back in 2013, 30% of Swedish films passed the test but in 2015 the percentage went up to 80% of films passing in the test and earning the A rating, in just 2 years!

I have hopes that other countries (mainly the UK and US) will see the success of the system and bring it over. It shouldn't been seen a way to 'shame' a film but just make the audience aware. The audience cant take active interest or not, but the fact that the rating is there can and has proved to make a difference. I look forward to the day I see an A on a film poster in my local cinema.


  1. It'd be interesting to see the rating brought to movies. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the time in the U.S. it's used by the media to shame movies that don't follow the qualifications. To see it on posters at the cinema would positively help me what movies to see that have diverse female characters and what their ambitions are (other than guys).

  2. This is the first time I've heard about The Bechdel Test so this was a really interesting read for me. I'm so glad to hear it's being taught in schools, and those results in Sweden are amazing!
    - Allie

  3. That's sooo interesting, I had no idea that existed! It's a really staggering change in Swedish cinema.

  4. I'm actually surprised and how quickly things have changed, in a positive way because of the rating. In just a three years the stats are high.

  5. I think it should be taught in Film Studies here and maybe even media classes in secondary schools, it could make a really good positive impact but slowly slowly of course. If it works for Sweden, it can work elsewhere too.

  6. Thanks Katy! You're right it used mostly to shame films or point out that 'that' film or 'this' film aren't being diverse. But this is positive and I'm hoing with the success in Sweden, other countries will follow. I see no harm in the rating appearing on poster either and for me too, I'd like the guidance.