Just how sexist is that film? There’s an app to find out
Ever wish you could rant about a film’s blatant sexism to more than just your family and friends?
A new mobile application called Mango Meter, launched last week in Jakarta, Indonesia, allows users to do just that. Its founders describe it as the world’s “first feminist film review” app.
Supported by the German non-profit Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation’s political feminism programme in Asia, the app is the brainchild of six women from the region, who hit upon the idea while discussing how popular culture influences perception.
“Film is such a powerful and influential medium, yet it is very problematic in its portrayal of women, and in perpetuating stereotypes,” Devi Asmarani, one of the six founders, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.
“So we decided to create a movie rating app - like Rotten Tomatoes, but with a feminist lens - so we can spark a bigger conversation about sexism and misogyny in the movies.”
The app, which features films from Hollywood, India’s Bollywood, China, Bangladesh and more, allows users to rate movies by answering questions on metrics such as representation, agency, sexuality, and intersectionality.
Based on the responses, each film on Mango Meter gets a rating of one to five mangoes, depending on how sexist or feminist it is.
The only other feminist film rating system is the Bechdel Test, popularised by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”.
The website rates a film based on three simple criteria: it has to have at least two women, who talk to each other, about something besides a man.
“Our questions go a little deeper,” said Asmarani, editor-in-chief of an Indonesian feminist magazine.
“We look at whether the movie portrays a western notion of beauty, whether it addresses marginalised communities, whether it talks about class,” she said.
The app comes at a time when women in Hollywood, boosted by the #MeToo movement, are exerting their influence to break on-screen stereotypes, insisting on producing roles to have more control, and commanding the director’s chair more.
Asia has been slower to change, with too few female directors and screenwriters, and with persistent stereotypical depictions of women that are “quite problematic”, said Asmarani.
“Their depiction of abusive behaviour like stalking or coercion as being acceptable has real consequences,” she said.
Few countries in Asia have an anti-stalking law, and women’s rights groups in India - which does - have blamed the nation’s prolific film industry for glorifying a crime that has resulted in several violent deaths.
Other recent efforts include calling out sexist lyrics in film songs, and a plea to end so-called item numbers or songs, which often have little to do with the subject of the movie, and typically feature skimpily clad women.
The Mango Meter can help widen the conversation, said Asmarani.
“That way, perhaps we can get the movie industry to hear these concerns, and do something about them,” she said.