The pioneering singer is making it possible for more women to take on leadership positions
STOCKHOLM (AP) — You expect movie ratings to tell you whether a film contains nudity, sex, profanity or violence. Now movie theaters in equality-minded Sweden are 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 to each other about something other than a man.
“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’s trendy Sodermalm district.
Bio Rio is one of four Swedish movie theaters that launched the new rating 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, reclining in one of Bio Rio’s cushy red seats.
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.”
The state-funded Swedish Film Institute supports the initiative, which is starting to catch on. Scandinavian cable TV channel 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. It has been discussed among feminists and film critics since then, but Tejle hopes the “A” rating system will help spread awareness among moviegoers about how women are portrayed in films.
In Bio Rio’s wood-paneled lobby, students Nikolaj Gula and Vincent Fremont acknowledged that most of their favorite films probably wouldn’t get an “A” rating.
“I guess it does make sense, but to me it would not influence the way I watch films because I’m not so aware about these questions,” said Fremont, 29.
At least one Hollywood star sounded excited by the idea when asked about it by The Associated Press.
“A feminist ratings system? That’s so interesting!” actress-producer Jada Pinkett Smith said in Beverly Hills, California, where she was attending a benefit dinner for gender equality. “I say, hey, let’s see if it works!”
The “A” rating is the latest Swedish move to promote gender equality by addressing how women are portrayed in the public sphere.
Sweden’s advertising ombudsman watches out for sexism in that industry and reprimands companies seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes, for example by including skimpily clad women in their ads for no apparent reason other than to draw eyeballs.
Since 2010, the Equalisters project has been trying to boost the number of women appearing as expert commentators in Swedish media through a Facebook page with 44,000 followers. The project has recently expanded to Finland, Norway and Italy.
For some, though, Sweden’s focus on gender equality has gone too far.
“If they want different kind of movies they should produce some themselves and not just point fingers at other people,” said Tanja Bergkvist, a physicist who writes a blog about Sweden’s “gender madness.”
The “A” rating also has been criticized as a blunt tool that doesn’t actually reveal whether a movie is gender-balanced.
“There are far too many films that pass the Bechdel test that don’t help at all in making society more equal or better, and lots of films that don’t pass the test but are fantastic at those things,” said Swedish film critic Hynek Pallas.
Pallas, who moved from communist Czechoslovakia to Sweden in the 1970s, also criticized the state-funded Swedish Film Institute — the biggest financier of Swedish film — for vocally supporting the project, saying a state institution should not “send out signals about what one should or shouldn’t include in a movie.”
Research in the U.S. supports the notion that women are underrepresented on the screen and that little has changed in the past 60 years.
Of the U.S. top 100 films in 2011, women accounted for 33 percent of all characters and only 11 percent of the protagonists, according to a study by the San Diego-based Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Another 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 two to one for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950-2006, 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 movie-making — 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, said in an email.
In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.” That movie — a war film about a bomb disposal team in Iraq — doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.
Associated Press writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
Comedian Phyllis Diller, known for her self-deprecating humor, died “peacefully in her sleep” at her Los Angeles home Monday morning, her manager told CNN. Diller was 95. Her son, Perry, “found her with a smile on her face,” manager Milt Suchin said. Diller’s career as a stand-up comic, which she started at age 37, skyrocketed in the 1960s, partly because of her many appearances with Bob Hope on his television specials, USO tours and three movies. Quick Clicks Notable deaths of 2012 She became a pop culture icon for her disparaging jokes about her looks, her cooking and her fictitious husband “Fang.” She wore a blonde fright wig, held a long cigarette holder as a prop and laughed with a loud cackle. One line attributed to her demonstrates how Diller got laughs: “Burt Reynolds once asked me out. I was in his room.” “She was a true pioneer,” said talent agent Fred Wostbrock. “She was the first lady of stand-up comedy. She paved the way for everybody. She paved the way for Joan Rivers, Chelsea Handler, Roseanne Barr, Ellen Degeneres, and all the women stand-up comics. She was the first and the best.” Joan Rivers posted a tribute to Diller on Twitter. “The only tragedy is that Phyllis Diller was the last from an era that insisted a woman had to look funny in order to be funny,” Rivers tweeted. “If she had started today, Phyllis could have stood there in Dior and Harry Winston and become the major star that she was. I adored her!” Roseanne Barr tweeted that Diller was “a revolutionary woman who inspired me.” “last time I saw Ms. Diller she’d a stroke & when her assistant told her she could no longer drink gin, I immediately took her out 4 martinis,” Barr tweeted. Ellen DeGeneres tweeted “We lost a comedy legend today. Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer.” Whoopi Goldberg called Diller “a true original.” Francesca Hilton, a stand up comic and daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor, said Diller was her mother’s best friend. “She had the best laugh in the world,” Hilton said. Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, on July 17, 1917, the daughter of an insurance salesman. She was trained as a classical pianist, but never pursued music as a career. She worked as a copywriter for a northern California newspaper, the San Leandro News-Leader, in the early 1950s. She took the stage at San Francisco’s Purple Onion Club on March 7, 1955, for her first stand-up comedy performance. She appeared as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s show “You Bet Your Life” in 1957. Her long personal and professional friendship with Hope began when the two met at a District of Columbia, nightclub in 1959. Diller’s late-night national television debut came on “The Jack Parr Show” in 1959. Two years later, the first of her five comedy albums, “Phyllis Diller Laughs,” was released. NBC gave Diller her own variety show, “The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show,” in 1968. Diller had a run on Broadway in 1970, starring as Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly!” She officially retired from stand-up comedy in 2002. Diller’s “creative passion” was painting, Beverly Hills art gallery owner David Streets said. Her paintings were “very much a reflection of her soul, bright, funny, happy, whimsical full of color and life,” Streets said. CNN’s Jane Caffrey contributed to this report. Copyright 2012 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/entertainment/Comedian-Phyllis-Diller-dead-at-95/-/121626/16199148/-/8p5ixpz/-/index.html
Connect with us! Facebook/69WFMZ or @69News