New movie rating stumps many popular films


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The Bechdel Test rates movies based on three principals: 1. If it has two women 2. who talk to each other 3. about something other than men.

In 1910, women were prohibited from enrolling in the university. Today, women make up 60 percent of the student body. In 1914, Warner Hall and Robinson Hall introduced the women’s college, but it was not until the 1940s that the university became gender integrated and not until the 1950s that it became racially integrated.

Anne Boylan, history and gender studies professor, says that she does not think society has reached a utopia of gender equity.

Boylan says that people often believe all the battles have been found and gender equity has been achieved. However, that is not the case, she says.

March is Women’s History month, which the university has celebrated in a number of ways, including a women’s film series.

“Women are half of the human race and so you can’t write the history of humanity in any country without women, but people often have,” Boylan says.

Boylan recalls a time when she was discriminated against because of her gender and marital status.

Nepotism rules, Boylan says, prohibited spouses from working for the same university or institution.

“My spouse is an academic and I tried to get a job at the institution where he was teaching, “Boylan says,” and the chair of the department told me that I couldn’t be hired because I was married.”

Though these rules no longer exist in the United States, Boylan now thinks that we are suffering from a backlash against feminism and women’s rights, in part due to the media, she says.

“There’s no question that any kind of popular representation of women…that those kinds of cultural artifacts [videos, pamphlets, film] produce versions of what it means to be female,” Boylan says.

In November, Swedish cinemas began rating movies based on the Bechdel test, a test that gauges the extent of gender bias in a film.

According to the Bechdel Test’s website, in order for a movie to pass the Bechdel Test, “1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it 2. Who talk to each other 3. About something besides a man.”

Paul Brewer, communications professor, says although the test doesn’t seem very difficult, a surprising number of movies and TV shows don’t actually pass it.

“I’m as big of a fan of “Lord of The Rings” as the next geek, but it’s almost 10 hours of movie and all I can think of is two named female characters, and I’m pretty sure they never interact,” Brewer says. “It may be a good film, but in terms of presenting women as an important part of the narrative, it certainly doesn’t.”

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The popular trilogy, Lord of The Rings, is one of several films that does not pass the Bechdel Test

Popular movies released in 2014 that failed the Bechdel Test include “Robocop,” “Ride Along,” “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” “300: Rise of an Empire” and “3 Days to Kill.”

Human development and family studies professor Bahira Trask says people often want to see themselves represented in film and are usually influenced by what they see.

Although women comprise 51 percent of the population, Brewer says there is still a lot of disproportionate representation of women in the media, leading to an inaccurate perception of reality. The Cultivation Theory, Brewer says, is the idea media has the ability to distort one’s perception of reality.

“The basic principal behind Cultivation Theory is that the reality that we see in the media, it comes to be the reality that we perceive,” Brewer says. “So if that media version of reality is distorted, then our perception of the real world may be distorted.”

Trask says she believes media and film greatly influence the way that women are perceived.

“I think it’s a factor, but also a medium that could be used to make a difference,” Trask says.

She also says women in media are often highly sexualized and are regularly portrayed sexually.

“I’m not against women beautifying themselves, but it surprised me the extent to which women, who are also celebrities, who a lot of young girls look to as role models, and the way they sell themselves is through a very highly sexualized persona,” Trask says.

Trask says that this would be okay with her if there were a more visible counterbalance for young women to look up to.

Brewer says the media can often selectively portray gender or racial groups in a way that is inaccurate.

“If you watch media, media makes some parts of society less visible or invisible, or if you watch media, they present some occupations largely being filled by men and other occupations largely being filled by women,” Brewer says. “Then people may come to see that as the way the world is.”

He says he believes the Bechdel Test could have a positive effect in terms of awareness. Boylan says a critical perspective is necessary when viewing media.

“The most important thing is for people to learn to look at, question, challenge and not simply accept representations,” Boylan says. “And to understand that film and other things like that are representations and they’re not the world as we know it.”

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