We all know about the standard movie rating system (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17), which judges movies by how much violence, nudity, offensive language it has, but Swedish cinemas have come up with another way to rate movies: the Bechdel test. Named for feminist author Alison Bechdel, the new system judges how much gender bias a movie contains. To achieve the top Bechdel rating, a movie must have two named female characters discussing something other than men.
How many movies fail that test? More than you’d think:
"The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test," said Ellen Tejle, an independent Swedish director. Other recent movies to fail the Bechdel test: Captain Phillips, Pacific Rim, Ender’s Game and The Fifth Estate. Gravity fails the Bechdel test, but perhaps we can give that one a pass for having only four characters, two of whom don’t appear after the first ten minutes.
Many of this year’s movies did pass the Bechdel test: The Heat, Man of Steel, Sharknado and Elysium all did (providing one way in which Elysium was not an utter disappointment).
Perhaps failing the Bechdel test doesn’t seem like a big deal, but try to think of a movie that would fail the same test for men. Even Gravity passes. The Bechdel test is a nifty wake-up call, showing that for all the advances in gender equality we’ve made, there’s still a long way to go.