We are used to the idea of films being rated according to the levels of bad language, violence and nudity that they contain.
Now cinemas in Sweden have introduced a new rating based on the criterion of the inclusion in a film of properly-rounded female characters.

To be awarded an ‘A’ rating for gender equality films must pass the Bechdel Test. This test was established by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Different versions of the test require at least two (named?) female characters to have a conversation (for longer than 60 seconds?) about something other than a man, (and without a man being present?). It sounds an incredibly low bar (perhaps as low as the 40% ratio of women to men plenary, keynote or panel presenters that gets a UK ELT event organizer onto The Fair List?) But a surprising number of blockbuster films fail to get over it.

The scheme was introduced in October, 2013 by four independent cinemas in Sweden and has since received the backing of The Swedish Film Institute. A popular cable channel has also agreed to use the ratings in its reviews.
Although a few kinks need to be ironed out, (e.g., what if the women characters talk about nothing but marriage?), the A rating certainly highlights a serious problem in the world of film. Some people who count these things say that fewer than a third of speaking parts in all films released in 2012 for example were female. And only about 16% of directors, writers and producers of the 100 top-grossing films in that year were women.

There might be very good financial reasons for making a change however. The number crunching blog of Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight, a polling aggregation website) looked at about 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 and concluded that the median expenditure budget of films that passed the Bechtel test was 35 percent lower than that of the others. It also found that the films that passed the test had about a 37% higher return on investment than those which didn’t.
This seems to indicate that films with more women characters in them, talking about varied topics, and with women sometimes even talking to each other (!) would do better at the box office than those without and thus make a bigger profit for investors. As well of course as just being fair, that is!