I Say “Go Sweden” – Our Children’s Entertainment Can’t Pass Basic Evaluation for Gender Bias

EDITORIAL: I think it’s a great idea. I have to admit when I began the article, I laughed at the criteria. I thought it was extremely simplistic and most films would pass, even without trying.  Then to read on and find out that some of the top children’s movies couldn’t pass this simple test was shocking. Sad. Very sad indeed!

I’m posting the article below though I don’t agree with the author at all. I believe she misses the point. The fact that Harry Potter couldn’t pass says they are feeding our children some major misogynistic subliminal propaganda, not the other way around. She states the evidence quite clearly.

Wed. November 13

What the Heck Is Wrong With Sweden? I Say Nothing!

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Melanie Wilcox Melanie Wilcox on Acculturated

Movie theaters in Sweden have introduced a new rating system – the Bechdel test – that evaluates whether or not films have gender bias.

In order to receive an “A” on the Bechdel test, a film must have:

a). At least two named female characters that

b). Talk to each other about

c). Something other than men

“The goal,” said Ellen Tejle, director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm and one of four Swedish cinemas that launched the new rating last month, “is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens.”

All seems well and good, right?  Let’s evaluate.

Despite the well-intended efforts to include women on the big screen, the Bechdel test’s narrow criteria exclude movies in which female characters play vital roles.  For example, if it weren’t for lead character Hermione Granger’s key personality trait – intelligence – Harry Potter would have died.  Another example: Princess Buttercup – the lead character in the 1987 classic movie The Princess Bride – has admirable personality traits that most women would like to possess. The Princess Bride and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail the Bechdel test.

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Still, it’s not much to ask writers to include female roles in their movies to meet Bechdel criteria, right?  Let’s evaluate some more.

First, some filmmakers will likely change a film’s plot to receive an “A” rating, which would either distort the main point of the film or twist the film’s truth.  For example, Tejle made it publicly known that the The Social Network, a film describing the start of Facebook, failed the Bechdel test.  If the writer of The Social Network had included a female character speaking with, say, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) – after the break-up scene with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), that would have either a) sidetracked from the film’s plot or b) included a false conversation that did not actually occur in this part-fiction, part-historical saga of the start of Facebook.

Second, female characters might actually show their true femininity when talking with a male character.  In The Social Network break-up scene, for example, Albright says to Zuckerberg:

You know, from a woman’s perspective sometimes not singing in an a cappella group is a good thing.”  So, a female character does not have to be talking to another female character to share female perspective with the film’s viewers.

Third, the Bechdel test does not take into account quality of woman-to-woman conversation.

Exhibit A:

Character 1: Hi. My name is Anna.

Character 2: Hi. I’m Lauren.  Nice to meet you.

Character 1: Such nice weather we’re having.

Character 2: Oh, yes.

This brief introduction could be in the midst of a war movie – men fighting men – interspersed with scenes of men smoking cigars, drinking scotch, playing video games, or playing their favorite card game.  But, no matter.  The movie would get an “A” based on the newly introduced Bechdel standards.

Swedish movie theaters stay in business largely because they profit off of movies made in the United States.  To put things in perspective, in 2011, well over 800 feature films were produced in America compared to 38 made in Sweden.  The criteria to meet the Bechdel standards are so narrow that most movies will likely fail.  Adding another rating – a feeble one at that– might influence the directions of American films, but it seems improbable that American filmmakers will adjust to the demands of Swedish cinemas.

That doesn’t mean it won’t have any impact.  Now, why should Americans care about Sweden’s Bechdel rating?  Based on America’s current trajectory, it’s likely that United States will soon – if it hasn’t already – adopt Sweden’s extreme social progressivism, an ironic turn of events since the American countercultural revolution of the 60s later influenced Sweden in the 70s.  The Bechdel rating is just one example of Sweden’s social progressivism.   Sweden is setting the stage for other democracies to follow suit.

Why democracies?  Democracies – run by the public – are prone to strive for their utmost ideal – equality, a forever-evolving term that the public defines.  In this era, the public has defined equality to mean “openness,” which means accepting everything.  A higher authority – the government – then endorses the public’s demands, which become “rights.”  For the sake of equality, anything goes.

Sweden’s Bechdel test is just one example of this propaganda at work.