In an era where films like The Heat and Bridesmaids are considered “groundbreaking” simply because so few non-romantic comedies starring females exist, a group of Swedish cinemas is determined to combat the issue of gender bias onscreen.

Four movie theatres in Sweden, in collaboration with the state-funded Swedish Film Institute, have adopted a new rating system to expose the bias in films. In addition to the general classifications applied to movies, these cinemas will adopt a rating system based on the Bechdel test.

To get an “A” rating, the film must have at least two named female characters who communicate with each other about something other than a romantic interest.

The Bechdel test was first introduced in a satirical comic strip by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 as a way of identifying and spotlighting gender bias in film. Perhaps not surprisingly, not much has changed since then.

The sexism-rating test has served as a universal measure of whether a film has a meaningful female presence, and though there are only three points for films to qualify, plenty of global blockbuststers, including The Avengers, Shrek, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Social Network and the Harry Potter series have failed the test, as A-Maetkt points out.

The film industry has a strong hand influencing the perception of women and their roles in society because movie-goers “very rarely see a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them”, says Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio cinema, one of the four applying the test.

The new rating system is not intended to reflect the quality of the film, but rather “the goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens,” he told AP.

Some detractors suggest that the Bechdel test won’t actually help in combating the issue of gender inequality, but in a country like Sweden, which, according to the 2013 gender gap report, ranks as the world’s fourth-most gender equal country in the world (with 480 days of paid parental leave, strict anti-discrimination laws, a minister for gender equality, and an annual multimillion-kronor budget for female entrepreneur programs), they may be on to something.

*This article was originally published at Women’s Agenda

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.