If you have spent any time on tumblr at all, or the internet for a matter of fact, then you are probably aware of The Bechdel Test, which, for those who don't know, is a test to see if movies in Hollywood are able to fulfill what feminists like to call: "The lowest bar ever set in Hollywood'. The test goes like this:
- The movie must contain two named women.
- Who talk to each other.
- About something other than a man.
Despite how simple the test sounds, it's quite surprising that very few movies are able to pass this test.
However, recently, you have probably noticed the rising demand in the need for POC (people of colour - anybody who isn't white) in movies, and this has sparked what the internet usually refers to as The Racial Bechdel Test, or The Shukla Test, seeing as it was created by Nilesh Shukla back in January 2013.
The test goes as follows:
- The movie must contain two named People of Colour.
- Who talk to each other.
- About something other than a white person.
If you can think of a movie that passes this test, then congratulations. Studies have shown that 23.6% of speaking characters in movies of 2012 were People of Colour. Only a small handful of movies are able to pass this test, and it's usually only once of twice in the movie. There are some movies, like Pacific Rim, which are able to pass this test multiple times.
So me being the Social Justice Warrior that I am, has came up with a little grading system for The Racial Bechdel Test.
A = The movie fully passes the test.
Some examples of movies which score an A, are: Pacific Rim, Hachi: A Dog's Tail, Fast and Furious 6, and both Star Trek movies. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is also the first superhero movie to pass the test with a straight A.
B = The movie passes the first two steps, but the characters only talk about a white person.
This is the one which majority of historical movies, slavery movies, karate movies, etc, happen to sit at. You can can have People of Colour in your movie, but if they spent 90% of the movie talking about a white person, well...it's not terrible.
But it's the same as The Bechdel Test: it would be preferred if the character could talk about, I don't know, something else?
C = The movie passes the first step only.
This is the one that I personally think that every movie should at least aim for. I don't know about other countries, but here in the UK, any grade above a C in school is considered a pass. It's the same with this test: any movie which can get at least a C is good enough in my book.
As long as you've got two People of Colour in your movie (or the fact that you have any people of colour at all) is already more progressive than majority of movies these days.
Some movies with score a C are: both Thor movies, X-Men: First Class, The Hunger Games, Godzilla...and I am struggling to list any more movies that fit this category. So...next?
D = There is only one named Person of Colour.
This is the one, that I'd say, majority of movies would achieve. And because there is only one major character of colour, it's impossible for the film to achieve any of the further steps.
Some movies which achieve a D are: The Iron Man movies, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Avengers, Now You See Me, The Fantastic Four reboot as of now, and The Incredibles.
While it's good for a movie to have POC, when you only have one, it's clearly tokenism. (i.e, 'we need to make it racially diverse, so let's give the black guy three lines, before killing him off')
E = The movie has racial stereotypes of any kind.
Now, before you ask questions like: "Aren't movies like The Help, and 12 Years a Slave racist stereotypes? Shouldn't they be given an E, instead of a B?" And the answer to that is: No. And I'll explain why.
Those movies are historical movies. As in, set in some time in history, so the way that POC are treated is relevant to the time period that it is set in. However, just because a movie is set in some point in time, does not automatically mean that any racist actions are okay.
If the movie is specifically set at some point in time, and that is what the movie is about, then any racist things said or done make sense, because it's what the movie is about.
However, if the movie just happens to be set in a particular time period, yet POC are still being treated a particular way, even though it is not what the film is about, then it becomes racist, and the movie is an E.
Example? The Help is set in 1962 (or 1964 - I cannot recall), and the movie is about maids who work for white women in the 60's. This makes any racist slurs and actions acceptable, because it is what the movie is about.
But say, for example, you wanted write a movie about a dragon slayer living in 1800's Europe, and your story is mostly about your dragon slayer slaying one of the most impossible-to-slay dragons and what not. The movie is not about racism; it's about slaying dragons, and therefore, any racist slurs or actions in the movie could not be excused, because it's not what the movie is about.
Does that make sense?
If not, then read this article.
F = The movie has no named People of Colour at all.
Name five movies. Chances are, four out of those five movies fall here.
Yep, I'm not going to spend to much time on this one. If a movie has no named People of Colour at all, then it's an automatic F. Enough said.
I'm also not going to bother trying to list the amount of movies that fall under this category - but what I am going to list is the full grading system of The Racial Bechdel Test:
- A = The movie fully passes the test.
- B = It passes the first two steps, but the people talk about a white person.
- C = The movie passes the first step only.
- D = There is only one named Person of Colour.
- E = There are racial stereotypes in the movie.
- F = The movie has no named people of colour at all.
I know that there are going to be some people who will exclaim in the comments how race doesn't matter, or that everyone should be able to enjoy a movie, without having to care for a stupid grading system. Fine. Whatever. Do that.
But I just wanted to write this article, due to all of this talk about race in movies, such as having an all black cast for the black panther movie, and casting for Luke Cage.
I having nothing more to say here. Peace.