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EDITORIAL: Movies to rate ‘F’

Sweden introduces a scale to make films safe for feminists

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Political correctness might have been born in Sweden, where excessive sensitivity is a leading cause of death. The first Swedish police dog was a cocker spaniel. Now the Swedes are revising movie ratings to protect feminists, some more radical than others, but all victims of artists who produce swashbuckling guy movies.

"G" or "PG" will no longer cut it. Something called the "Bechdel" scale will decree that a movie must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something besides men. That sounds like an easy hurdle to clear, but it may be difficult for screenwriters to find such characters in real life. Movies that don't meet this lofty standard receive an "F." Can Hollywood be far behind?

"The entire 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, all 'Star Wars' movies . . . and all but one of the 'Harry Potter' movies fail this test," Ellen Tejle, director of an art-house theater in Stockholm, tells The Associated Press. Ms. Tejle's theater is one of four Swedish movie houses that introduced the Bechdel rating system last month.

Most Hollywood romantic comedies would get a thumbs down from Swedish critics, as would war movies, Westerns and action thrillers, making it difficult for a politically correct couple to find a movie on date night in Goteborg or Uppsala.

Moviegoers rarely see "a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them," laments Ms. Tejle, who concedes that the rating isn't a measure of the film's quality (and might be the opposite). "The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens."

The Bechdel test takes its name from American underground-press cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who introduced the concept in her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For." (The strip died.) The current favorite flick in the art houses, "Blue Is the Warmest Colour," might not pass muster. The movie's seven-minute-long nude lesbian love scene thrilled the Cannes Film Festival, but some critics scorned it as insufficiently authentic. "The Hurt Locker," a 2010 war film about a bomb-disposal team in Iraq, can't pass the test despite its female director, Kathryn Bigelow, winning an Oscar for it.

The state-funded Swedish Film Institute, the major source of financing for Swedish films, and at least one cable-TV channel have adopted the new rating system, but not every Swede is on board. "If [advocates] want different kinds of movies," says Tanja Bergkvist, a female mathematician who blogs about what she calls the country's gender madness, "they should produce some themselves."

Governments fail as writers, directors, producers and cinematographers because bureaucrats aren't creators. Moviemakers, as we see in our own country, are perfectly capable of making politically correct movies without the assistance of no-talent busybodies. "If you want to send a message," Samuel Goldwyn, a mogul of Hollywood's golden era, once told a screenwriter, "go to Western Union." He might have to tweet it today, but his point survives. Moviegoers don't flock to the theater to get a sermon.

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