It’s a lamentable fact that women are grossly under-represented in films all over the world. According to the USC Annenberg Center, for example, 28.4% of speaking big screen characters were females in 2012. According to the brain-trust illuminati of Swedish cinema, this is a major problem that needs correcting, and perhaps it is. Especially the lack-of-speaking part seems to be important. I think what they’re saying is, since women do 325% of the talking in real life, they should do a similar proportion of the talking in the cinema. [Kidding! Made-up offensive fact alert!]
Consider typical Hollywood fare like James Cameron’s original sexist Terminator movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger does all the talking and Linda Hamilton just does a lot of nude scenes and keeps quiet. Or something. Actually, I think it’s the other way round. Arnold has a nude scene and he speaks maybe 6 words in the whole film. But anyway, we are told that there must be a load of movies out there, maybe put out by the United Arab Emirates, that just contain a bunch of guys talking with no women present except for occasional glimpses of heavily repressed and mute belly dancers in some other room down the hall.
So, to combat this rampant apparent sexism, Swedish cinemas are now adopting a rating system to encourage the making of films that show women more often, more vocally, and in a more interesting and complex light. Unfortunately, they picked a simple rating test, called the Bechdel Test, to determine which films get the ‘A’ rating, and it’s one of the most useless, controversial and idiotic tests ever conceived.
It makes us wonder if what we really need is a test to identify stupidity. Whenever anyone has an idea for solving a problem or writing a magazine article or making the world a better place, someone could stand up and say: “Wait, does it satisfy the Sanderson Stupidity Test for Idiot Ideas?” Think of all the ridiculous, humiliating, lethal ideas that could be nipped in the bud if such a test existed. When Bob Lutz, legendary car designer at GM reflected on the embarrassing Chevy Vega, he opined: “You know, we never just got up one morning and said ‘Hey, let’s design the shittiest car ever.'” If Bob Lutz had an Idiot Test back in 1970, you can bet he would have used it to avoid the Vega. Instead, maybe he would have come up with the Pontiac Solstice right away? That would have been pretty kick-ass in 1970.
Getting back to Swedish movies, the Bechdel test requires that, in order to be deemed non-sexist, a film must contain a scene with at least two women talking together about something other than a man. Pretty simple, right? Well, it turns out that an enormous number of popular films fail this test. It’s been pointed out that all the Harry Potter movies, except one, make Alison Bechdel (the creator of the test) very unhappy. Likewise with the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all of the Star Wars movies and many other iconic films, perhaps even Terminator, in which Linda Hamilton does so much of the talking and bad-ass fighting. Somebody forgot to tell her she needed to hang out with more women and avoid talking about guys who may be trying to kill her. Maybe she’s supposed to find some homicidal women to flee from. Otherwise, she’s contributing to the objectification of women the world over.
But it’s not Linda’s fault. Notoriously liberal and sensitive director/producer/writer James Cameron really should take the blame for putting out such sexist trash. If he’d only cast more women in that movie, then it would have passed the Bechdel test and not doomed millions of young girls to lives of self-loathing. Also, he would have had more prey to choose from instead of hitting on his leading lady Linda Hamilton right out of the chute. And, he might not have been forced to wait until Titanic started production before dumping her for a younger, cuter actress. He is a progressive, after all.
But Linda’s and James’ carelessness is nothing compared to that of J.K. Rowling (at left). Her books/movies are judged very wanting in the court of Swedish film testing. Being a woman, herself, one would think she’d be more sensitive to the effect her art had on impressionable young girls contemplating witchcraft. As it turns out, she’s been asked publicly about that very thing, and she’s stated flatly that she purposely made her chief protagonist a boy, and she surrounded him with mostly male companions except for Hermione, with whom she, herself, identified most. So why is that? That choice put her at odds with the Bechdel test and condemned her to be smitten perpetually with the sexism hammer and ranked among the unmentionables. Why did she do such a thing?
Well, as Ms. Rowling explains, she did it because she set out to write an epic tale, and she wanted it to be compelling to both boys and girls, and hence successful. To do that, she maintains that she had to place boys and men in leadership roles because it was “natural.” Furthermore, the girl’s and women’s roles that she was most comfortable with, and that she felt were most compelling, tended to work directly with the males rather than keep to female company. In short, Rowling purposely violated every single aspect of the Bechdel rule, consciously and unapologetically. The result was an epic story that appealed to young and old, male and female audiences alike, earning particular affection, it would seem, from young female readers/viewers. It also made her, perhaps, the richest woman on the planet, but also the admiration of the world. This is not hyperbole. Her books outsold Tolkien’s works, much to my dismay, and may have given the Bible, itself, a run for its money in terms of sales. What does this say about the Swedish cinema plan for reshaping entertainment?
Continue reading in the upcoming Part 2, in which Grunt further discusses the epic twistedness of the Bechdel test, in which all genres of movies, including Jane Austin adaptations, may be condemned as ‘sexist,’ and in which he proposes a new ‘stupidity test’ to help identify and avoid the more truly idiotic ideas we are bombarded with every day in the media, the pub, the board room, the hair salon and at the shooting range. You’re welcome. 😀 Please stay tuned.