Going Beyond the Bechdel Test
Early in the history of this blog I read an analysis of female vs. male representation in movies, wholesale and across-the-board. Someone interested party took the scripts for every movie they could find and parsed them for number of lines per character/per gender/per vectors that eventually yielded those results. This Hollywood breakdown provided a quick, approximate-but-really-close-enough, picture of gender representation in film as a whole. The population of analyzed scripts is not limited by any vector like production company, genre, film release, and etc, so the data provides a comprehensive image of the film industry whole. In a “this sucks” sort of way, the analysis is interesting and cool, so for the third time I’ll drop you the link: click.
As a female person, I generally believe I care a lot about the issues of being a female person. This includes fair gender representation in all areas. However, I wasn’t woke regarding the film industry until I read that analysis. After that, I began to track gender representation in the movies I watched. I looked for Bechdel passes. Most importantly, I shared what I saw in my reviews on this blog. To me, that data is important. I mean –
that data is important.
Past the Bechdel: We Can Call it the Blackdel Test!
After some lightning-bolt realizations last night, I decided Bechdel isn’t all I want to track anymore. While I’ve mentioned race representation in a review here or there, going forward, just as I do with female representation and the Bechdel test, I will figure race representation and treatment into every god-damn review I post.
Here are my 3 Blackdel parameters:
- Does the movie have at least one black character?
- Does the character have a name?
- Does he or she speak any lines?
It is a sad truth of the film industry at the minute that if I set my first parameter to require two black characters, I could get rid of the following 2 and the industry pass percentage would be a fraction of a percent. Blackdel is technically a looser standard than Bechdel. I bet it gets met far less. Tell you what: in a year, I’ll parse my reviews and report back.
Again, a film can pass Bechdel and suck. It can pass and be sexist. Bechdel, and now Blackdel, test for a minimum standard of inclusion. As an example, see the end of this post for a short list of horror films which contain one token black character who functions, to the utmost woke cringe-rating, as a stereotypical, one-dimensional representation of “the whole black race.” Each of them registers a Blackdel pass.
So I’ll be tracking for that as well; when there is a black character, are they a “token black?” Is there character development, growth, are there reasons for the character behaving and acting as they do beyond their blackness? Beyond “because that’s how black people act!”
I’m adding these observations into my future posts because I just want to see more black lawyer extras in movies instead of black janitors. I want to see more three-dimensional black characters with real desires at stake instead of sassy black nannies and security guards or warehouse workers.
In my heart I think the film industry is so far from representing both race and gender equally that it’s foolish to hope the disparity will resolve in my lifetime. There are people out there who this post would make angry. People who would fume or ask “Why do we need more black people in films?” or “If they’re good enough, they’ll be cast! This isn’t about race! It’s about talent!”
From my perspective, diversity and equal representation is not a question of whether there should be more black folx in our movies. That isn’t a question: it’s a fact. If you happen to agree with me, and you want to get woke to films, too — all you have to do is pay a little attention. Don’t accept the face a movie presents. Instead, ask.
Why isn’t that character black?
Why aren’t any of the other characters in this movie black?
Why is it the black character that [insert action – is full of sass; hits on/checks out every woman he encounters/turns immediately to violence/beats his child/dropped out/Solves The Problem With Ethnic Magic/etc]
Ask why isn’t every character in this movie black? That is the right perspective.