In IMDb's New Movie Rating System, Getting an 'F' Is a Great Thing
This time, it’s good to get an “F”.
After 2016, a year which saw the highest on-screen female representation of all time (29% of protagonists), the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is upping the ante. A hub for movie and television information, which gets more than 250 million visitors per month, has added a female rating (F-rating), which measures which movies feature a female, writer, director, and main character(s).
The F-Rating was the brainchild of Bath Film Festival Director Holly Tarquini in 2014.
“The F-Rating is intended to make people talk about the representation of women on and off screen,” Tarquini told BBC. “It’s exciting when new organizations decide to join us in shining a light both on the brilliant work women are doing in the film and on how far the film industry lags behind most other industries when it comes to providing equal opportunities to women.”
Lags behind, indeed. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that, though female representation improved from 2015 to 2016, just under a third of female characters had speaking roles (32%). Furthermore, women accounted for 17% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.
The F-Rating is an addendum to the Bechdel Test, created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” The test also asks three questions, but focuses on content: Are there two named female characters? Do they speak to each other? Do they speak to each other about anything other than a man?
Most movies fail, including many that are considered classics.
F-Rated.org keeps track of the movies that pass each seperate criteria, in addition to those that pass all three. These films are dubbed "Triple-F-Rated," the site's "gold standard." "Frozen" and "Bridget Jones' Baby" are among the handful of films in this category. The site then links to each film's IMDb page for more information.
"It's time for better female role models in film, fairer funding for female directors and a realistic representation for 50% of the population on screen," the site says.
By addressing the disparity in female writers and directors (positions of creative control), the F-Rating goes one step further than its predecessor, which focus on what’s in front of the camera.
Bechdel acknowledges her test is far from an accurate measuring stick for feminism, but it does shine a spotlight on the disparity between Hollywood roles for men and women. The fact that it took thirty years before someone took up Bechdel’s torch demonstrates the problem in itself.
So far, more than 21,800 titles have been F-rated on IMDb.