Stockholm Sin-drome: Swedes try feminist movie rating system

Posted: November 08, 2013

IF YOU THINK the movie-ratings system in the U.S. is arbitrary, maybe you should go to Sweden. In the equality-minded Scandinavian country, they're introducing a new rating to highlight gender bias, or rather the absence of it.

To get an "A" rating, a movie must pass the so-called Bechdel test, which means it must have at least two named female characters who talk with each other about something other than a man.

Like, say, "Thelma and Louise."

"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, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house movie theater in Stockholm.

Bio Rio is one of four Swedish movie theaters that launched the new ratings last month to draw attention to how few movies pass. Most visitors have reacted positively to the initiative "and for some people it has been an eye-opener," said Tejle.

Beliefs about women's roles in society are influenced by the fact that movie watchers rarely see "a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them," Tejle said, noting that the rating doesn't say anything about the quality of the film. "The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens."

A group of Scandinavian cable movie channels, Viasat Film, says it will start using the ratings in its film reviews and has scheduled an "A" rated "Super Sunday" on Nov. 17, when it will show only films that pass the test, such as "The Hunger Games," "The Iron Lady" and "Savages."

The Bechdel test got its name from American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who introduced the concept in her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" in 1985.

"A feminist ratings system? That's so interesting!" actress-producer Jada Pinkett Smith said in Beverly Hills, where she was attending a benefit dinner for gender equality. "I say, hey, let's see if it works!"

A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania showed the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained at about 2-to-1 for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950 to 2006, showed female characters were twice as likely to be seen in explicit sexual scenes as males, while male characters were more likely to be seen as violent.

"Apparently Hollywood thinks that films with male characters will do better at the box office. It is also the case that most of the aspects of moviemaking - writing, production, direction, and so on - are dominated by men, and so it is not a surprise that the stories we see are those that tend to revolve around men," Amy Bleakley, the study's lead author, told the Associated Press via email.

TATTBITS

Denise Richards, already on the hook to care for her two daughters with Charlie Sheen, claims she can no longer also care for Charlie's twin boys with Brooke Mueller, while Brooke tries to kick drugs.

RadarOnline.com obtained a letter penned by Richards informing DCFS that she no longer feels capable of caring for the boys in her home.

"With a heavy heart," Richards writes how recent contact with Mueller has transformed the boys from "kind and loving" to "zombie-like." She says the boys now exhibit "extreme violent mood swings" and "violent behavior."

* Veteran ABC News reporter and "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas is in treatment for alcohol dependency, the network said yesterday.

* In other booze news, US Airways denies crew members used racial slurs against actor Brandon T. Jackson ("Tropic Thunder"), who was kicked off a flight at a Phoenix layover because of unruly behavior.

Jackson had been drinking on the New York-to-Phoenix flight Monday night and became upset when flight attendants stopped serving him alcohol.

He sent out 21 tweets about the experience and said a flight attendant "called me the N-word."

Phoenix police escorted Jackson out of the terminal at Sky Harbor International Airport. Officers said they determined that no crime had been committed so they let Jackson go. He then took another flight to Burbank, Calif.

"We've spoken with the crew members involved and they deny any use of the N-word or racist slurs with Mr. Jackson," said US Airways spokesman Andrew Christie, adding that the actor "was disruptive, and our crew made the right decision to stop serving him alcohol."

Us Weekly reports that Lady Gaga will become the first artist to sing in outer space, in early 2015, when she blasts off in a Virgin Galactic ship and performs during the Zero G Colony high-tech musical festival.

"She has to do a month of vocal training because of the atmosphere," said an unnamed Us source.

Zero G Colony is a three-day hi-tech fest in New Mexico set to take place at Spaceport America.

But just in case Gaga has more than a wardrobe malfunction, an anonymous source tells Us, she "has taken out a ridiculous life insurance policy!"

* The website of Brazil's O Globo newspaper has published photos it says show Justin Bieber spray-painting graffiti on a wall and it says police want to question him.

O Globo reports that photographers snapped photos of Bieber as he painted graffiti on a wall of the former Hotel Nacional in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday morning.

Defacing buildings is a crime in Brazil punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine.

Even with his newfound muscles, the Biebs doesn't seem the type who would enjoy prison.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.


Email: gensleh@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5678

On Twitter: @DNTattle

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