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The Bechdel Test Inspires Feminist Movie Ratings in Sweden

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A few months back, Alison Bechdel spent an evening at ASU's West Campus. Before her visit to the Valley, the New York Times bestselling author and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient spoke with Jackalope Ranch about Fun Home the Musical, teaching, and her next book.

Now the accomplished artist/author has another achievement to add to her resume: her own movie ratings system in Sweden.

See also: Alison Bechdel on Fun Home the Musical, Teaching, and Her Next Book

It's called the Bechdel Test, and its premise is quite simple. To gauge the gender bias of a piece of fiction, in this case movies, the Bechdel Test asks three simple questions:

1. Are there two or more women in the film? 2. Do these women have names? 3. Do they talk to each other about something other than men?

The test originated from one of Bechdel's earlier cartoons, a 1985 comic strip from the award-winning series, Dykes to Watch Out For.

While the test may seem laughable to some, ultimately it provides a sad commentary on the sexist state of things in the film industry. Good Will Hunting, Lord of the Rings, Pulp Fiction, and The Bourne Identity are just a small sample of the growing list of movies that fail the Bechdel Test.

But thanks to a progressive move by Sweden, times may finally, slowly, be a changing. With support from the Swedish Film Institute, some Swedish movie theaters have begun implementing feminist movie ratings, based precisely on the Bechdel Test.

So far, the Associated Press reports that is has been an eye-opener for Swedish movie-goers and is just one of the may ways Sweden has been pursuing gender equality.

Adding momentum to the newly added gender rating system, Scandinavian channel Viasat Films will air a "Super Sunday" lineup this month of Bechdel-approved movies including The Hunger Games, Savages, and The Iron Lady.

While the Bechdel Test does fall short in some aspects of its rating system (failure to evaluate overall quality and female sterotypes, for example), it's fair to say that the test offers some additional insight into film criticism; an a la carte addition to the movie reviewer's food for thought.

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