When an F is better than an A

Let’s talk about the birds and the bees. Shall we? There is a gender inequity in film—no surprise.

Below are two litmus tests for a film’s gender equality. The first became a part of the Swedish rating system last year and the second is a new one that will be incorporated on Thursday at a film fest in Bath, England. These tests raise gender inequity awareness for both audiences and the industry:

Rated A: Let’s hear it for the Swedes

I'd give it an F
Bee-atches get an F not an A


Since 1985, the Bechdel Test has tested for gender equality. In Sweden films are put to this test. A film that passes is rated A for Approved.  To pass it must have these three elements:

  1. At least two named female characters
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than men

Sounds like a good test. Let’s give it a whirl:

Rated A: Zero Dark Thirty. Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Ehle’s characters are friends who do not talk to each other about men, unless talking about Bin Laden constitutes talking about a man…..

Not Rated A: Gravity. Even though the female lead is uber-strong, she is the one and only woman. Right off the bat it fails the Bechdel Test.

Whoa. That’s just not right.

Rated F: The Bathers have it

F= film contains strong female leads, a female director or screenwriter OR features women’s issues.

This rating is brand new. It was developed by producers of the 24th Annual Bath Film Fest, which starts on Thursday, in the tiny tourist town of Bath, England, known for its natural hot springs. This test is more comprehensive and applies to women behind the screen, not just the actors.

“As we looked into it more,” says the film fest’s producer Holly Tarquini, “there were lots of films that didn’t pass [the Bechdel test] but should because they have amazingly strong female protagonists.”

NOW Gravity passes.

17 of 42 movies at the Bath Film Fest are rated F.

Strong Females Rule

Certainly no A
Not even an F

Films that do feature strong women have triumphed at the box office! According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, out of 2013’s top 50 films, 24 passed one of the gender-equality tests; together those 24 movies made $4.22 billion, while the remaining 26 grossed $2.66 billion.

The bad news is that of the same 50 movies, there was only one female director, who co-directed with a man.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

Let’s digress–I stumbled upon this.

Just sayin'
Just sayin’

So this is where Geena has been hiding!

Is it ironic that Geena Davis’ husband is a plastic surgeon? And there’s a good chance that she had some?


For Fun

Apply the Bechdel test to Oscar-nominated films in an interactive quiz on The New Yorker’s website, which you can find here.


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