A rate (A-märkt) is a new branding of films that pass the Bechdel Test invented by Alison Bechdel back in 1985. The A rate is consumer information meant to raise awareness regarding gender bias on the screen by highlighting the ones with some female presence. For a film to be marked “A” it has to pass the Bechdel test which implies three simple things:
Those are the only three things the Bechdel Test measures. Not a films quality, female view, analysis of the portraits or their agenda. It is just a simple way of acknowledging gender bias of representation in film. The A rate will initially be used by the four Swedish cinemas who started the project: Bio Rio (Stockholm), Roy (Göteborg), Spegeln (Malmö), Röda Kvarn (Helsingborg) cinemas all run by the national organization National Association of Peoples Parks and Community Centres (Folkets Hus och Parker).
Who can use A rating?
Everyone! The A rating can be used by cinemas, film festivals, newspapers and VOD services… actually anyone who feels the perspective is useful, chocking or inspiring.
What is the purpose of A rating a film?
To raise awareness (in a little ironic way) about women’s representation in film today.
Why is the label called “A rate”?
It means it is approved according to the Bechdel Test (by Alison Bechdel).
What is the Bechdel Test?
The Bechdel test got its name from American cartoonist Alison Bechdel who introduced the the joke in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985.
Come on, this whole gender equality thing, is this REALLY a problem in film?
Research in the US supports the notion that women are under-represented on the screen and that little has changed in the past 60 years. Of the top 100 US films in 2011, women accounted for 33% of all characters and only 11% of the protagonists, according to a study by the San Diego-based Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Another study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained at about two to one for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950-2006, showed female characters were twice as likely to be seen in explicit sexual scenes as males, while male characters were more likely to be seen as violent. (AP)
Is the Bechdel Test a perfect way of investigating whether a film is gender equal or not? If it has a feminist agenda or not? If the female portraits are interesting or not? If the film is GOOD or not?
No. It only measures the three previously mentioned things. (For those with a few spare minutes, try looking for films with two men in it, talking to each other about something other than a woman. Most likely you will not have to look very far…).
Can a bad film be A rated?
Yes. If it has at least two women with names talking to each other about something other than a man.
Can a super fabulous ultra feminist movie fail to pass the Bechdel test and not get an A rating?
Yes. If it does not have at least two women with names talking to each other about something other than a man.
But then, what’s the point?
To raise awareness about women’s representation in film today. The Bechdel Test is one way of doing it.
Hasn’t this gender equality thing gone TOO far in Sweden?
Um, ah, hm, let us think. NO! (Since gender equality is a measure of equality, it is mathematically impossible to have too much equality right?). But please ask again when we have as many films with men talking to each other about something other than a woman as we have A rated films.
Who stands behind A rate?
Four Swedish cinemas: Bio Rio (Stockholm), Roy (Göteborg), Spegeln (Malmö), Röda Kvarn (Helsingborg) all run by the national organization National Association of Peoples Parks and Community Centres (Folkets Hus och Parker). The launch in Sweden was a cooperation between WIFT (Women in Film and Television) and Swedish gender equality project Equalisters (Rättviseförmedlingen).
Is an A rated film better than other films when it comes to quality?
The A rate is not a mark of quality. It informs consumers that “in this film there are at least two women with names talking to each other about something other than a man”. (And at the same time, the debate might inform consumers of all the films that don’t).
Is the goal that no movies should ever be made that don’t pass the Bechdel test?
No. Our goal is to raise awareness about how it looks today, hopefully something the film industry can take to heart. There is a huge potiental in all the untold stories out there and all the characters and plots that are yet to come alive on the screen.
Will the cinemas Roy, Rio, Spegeln and Röda Kvarn only screen A rated films from now on? Will the whole film industry of Sweden follow?
No. We want to raise awareness around womens representation in the film repertoire today. From knowledge might come change.
Has the creator of the test, Alison Bechdel, approved of you using it?
Alison Bechdel says:
‘This is an amazing idea, and a great honor! I would absolutely endorse this remarkable scheme. Thank you so much for contacting me, and for being so innovative in your programming approach! Sincerely, Alison’.