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08 September 2008 @ 01:58 pm
race Bechdel?  
Another thing I've been wondering is how many films would pass a race version of the Bechdel test? A film that has
  1. at least two characters of colour
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a white person

I'd give bonus points if the characters are of the same race. Partly it'd be less likely to have two token stereotypes talking, eg the black strong man and the Asian smart guy, or the latina maid and the Asian convenience store guy.

Same caveats as before - what's interesting is the numbers and trends, not whether individual ones pass or fail.

Thinking about films I've seen recently: When Harry Met Sally, probably fail; The Dark Knight, probably pass & bonus points (the gangsters); Dr Horrible, probable fail; Iron Man, probable pass & bonus points (the genocidal guys); The Incredible Hulk, maybe (I know the guys in the factory talked, I can't remember if it was about him).

Again, a pass is far from saying a film is anti-racist. The ones that I think pass, pass with bad guys/stereotypes. And if the first part of the rule is amended to named characters, then I think they all fail. Could be wrong - they're all from memory. The only thing I've looked up is the name of the Hulk film.

And my Zoe icon comes out again, as the only non-white human in my icons. My icons fail the race Bechdel test
Current Mood: curiouscurious
(Deleted comment)
a very caring potato: sciencemollydot on September 8th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
I think perceived irrelevance and inferiority are problems with both race and gender. For example, I think that TV execs are being quite careful to avoid directly showing POC as inferior (except for criminality), but still COC get relegated to roles such as sassy best friend - only relevant as a support/confident for the white woman lead, without many desires of her own.

Your test would probably be more accurate, and I'd certainly like to see the numbers for both race and gender. Sticking to American media, because that's mostly what I watch, and averaging across films/shows in some way, minority races should get about 30%, women should get about 50%. White men should get about 35%. The screen time would definitely have to be measured, not estimated. See this comment about perception of talk time: http://www.metafilter.com/74592/The-Bechdel-Test#2243929

The advantage of a Bechdel like test is that it's easier to apply. You see one conversation on the screen matching the requirements and you know the film or whatever passes. You have to watch the whole thing to know that it doesn't, but you just have to pay attention, not record anything. It's like BMI. BMI is nothing more than a guideline and is far from accurate, but it's easier to apply than body fat percentage.

Perhaps my third condition should be "about something other than the white protagonist", but despite talking about films, I've been more thinking about tv. Who's the protagonist in say, Battlestar Galactica? Or Heroes? Something like House, with the series named after one person, is maybe simpler - I'd say pass if they talk about a white patient, doesn't count if they talk about House himself. Talking about Foreman would count. What about talking about Cuddy, Case or Cameron?

Someone made the point about the original Bechdel test that if there are two women talking about something other than the male protagonist, there's a good chance that the plot isn't all male driven - eg Starbuck and Roslin discussing getting the Arrow of Athena is driving the plot, Buffy and Willow discussing Willow's feelings for Xander, not so much. Likewise, more COC talk increases the chance of not entirely white driven. Hiro and Ando talking about the need for the sword, yes; Shepherd Book and Inara talking about praying for the rest of crew, nope.

Maybe a simpler test would be to have any two characters talk about a named character of colour - if House and Cuddy talk about Foreman, then Foreman is important enough to be talked about. I suspect that's a lower bar again, though. The Dark Knight would pass due to (at least) talking about capturing the Chinese guy. Not sure about Iron Man - does Stark talk about Yinsen? Or his military friend? When Harry Met Sally and Dr Horrible, probably both fail (I don't recall any characters of colour in either of them). I don't know about the Incredible Hulk.