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Media test

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A media test, also known as a critique test, is a means by which reviewers of media works may test the relevance or utility of a film or other narrative work. Many of the tests here are meant to critique the prevalence or bias of writers to standard tropes involving suspect classes of society, such as gender, skin color, ablement or sexual orientation. In the case of feminist media tests, the goal is to evaluate perceived imbalances in the depiction of women and gender relations in both fiction and nonfiction creative works. 

A variety of media tests have been developed among media critics and culture bloggers in the 2000s and 2010s, although the earliest media test, the Bechdel/Wallace, emanated from a mid-1980s comic strip.  

Features Edit

Media tests usually focus on the following aspects of a work's depiction of a class of people:  

  • Number of characters  
  • Amount of dialogue  
  • Direction of dialogue  
  • Diversity of characters
  • Subject of dialogue  
  • Diversity of dialogue  
  • Relations of characters  
  • Background of characters  
  • Development of characters  
  • Agency of characters  
  • Fluidity of personality  
  • Role of characters and their dialogue in the plot  

Feminist fiction testsEdit

Bechdel-Wallace test Edit

The Bechdel-Wallace test, often known simply as the Bechdel test, is a bare litmus test to determine a very basic level of women's autonomy in works of fiction by examining whether female characters have even a single conversation about something that is not a male character.

a) at least two female characters;
b) who have at least one conversation;
c) about something other than a male character.

Mako Mori test Edit

The Mako Mori test attempts to test the non-centricity of men to a woman character's own narrative arc.

a) at least one female character;
b) who gets her own narrative arc;
c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

Ellen Willis test Edit

The Ellen Willis test determines whether a work's depiction of at least two related characters would work if the genders of the characters were flipped. 

Sexy Lamp test Edit

The Sexy Lamp test (coined by Kelly Sue DeConnick) determines the validity of a female character's position in a work. The test is failed if she could be replaced by a "sexy" lamp and the work's plot wouldn't fall apart. Examples of failures, when a female character's role is limited to any of the following:

Similar to the Bechdel Test, this is a rough litmus test, but with clearer implications for failing. A work that fails the Sexy Lamp Test has reduced its female character(s) to extremely objectified position, with little to no agency, and no importance to the plot as an active character.

Tauriel test Edit

The Tauriel test attempts to test the film's depiction of a woman character who is competent at her occupation. 

Raleigh Becket test Edit

The Raleigh Becket test, coined by geekalitarian, evaluates a film by a central male character whose narrative needs the development of a female character but is precluded from being sexually or romantically involved with the character.[1]

Furiosa Test Edit

The Furiosa test evaluates whether the film made people on the internet angry for it being "feminist.[2]"

The Babs and Kara test Edit

The Babs and Kara test evaluates character design by examining whether specific characters would be recognisable even if they were wearing identical bathrobes and had their hair completely covered. [3]

Combination tests Edit

As knowledge and application of the tests has grown for works of fiction, some have proposed combinations of the above tests to raise expectations beyond mere quality or quantity.

Bechdel/Wallace + Mako MoriEdit

A few bloggers on Tumblr and Wordpress (as well as an article on Autostraddle) have applied Bechdel/Wallace and Mako Mori together. 

Crystal Gems testEdit


Visual diagram of a media work passing the Crystal Gems test.

Tumblr user locuas642 has proposed the following omnibus test (called the "Crystal Gems test "):
  1. A work has to Have at least four female Characters;
  2. It must pass the Bechdel Test;
  3. It must pass the Mako Mori Test;
  4. It must pass the Sexy Lamp Test;
  5. Each [major female] character must pass at least one of these tests, and each test must be passed by at least one [major female] character;
  6. the more times you can repeat the previous step, the better.

One effect of passing this test is to highlight instances of a narrative centrality of non-androcentric dialogue between leading woman characters. 

Feminist nonfiction testsEdit

Finkbeiner testEdit

The Finkbeiner test seeks to determine the non-fictional depiction of a real-life woman by her own merit rather than her relationship with a male spouse or children. 

Feminist interactive media tests Edit

Lauredhel test for toys Edit

Lauredhel made a variant for children's toys, regarding whether there were two girls depicted in an advertisement and whether they were playing at being stereotypical women or not at Hoyden About Town

  1. One or more girls, playing;
  2. with no boys around; and
  3. with something that is not related to domestic work, mothering, being sexy, or ponies.

Haislett-Peaslee test for videogamesEdit

Also known as the "Bechdel test for video games", this test, as asked by Robin Haislett (Texas Tech University) and Robert Moses Peaslee (Texas Tech University), asks the following question for videogames :

  1. Does the game have at least one playable character that demonstrates a gender identity outside of normative masculinity?
  2. Do(es) this/these character(s) have access to the same range and level of abilities, upgrades, weapons, and status improvements as other playable characters?
  3. Can this/these character(s) pursue a goal beyond killing a foe or rescuing a female?

Feminist-inclusive tests Edit

Vito Russo test Edit

The Vito Russo test, developed by members at GLAAD and named after a pivotal co-founder, determines the inclusiveness of a creative work by the placing of an openly-LGBT character in a pivotal role that is nondependent on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc.
  2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  3. The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. 

Deggans' rule Edit

Deggans' rule, coined by TV critic Eric Deggans, seeks to determine inclusivity by the inclusion of two people of color in the main cast of a narrative that is not about race.  

Other racial tests Edit

  • Latoya Peterson has some drafts of a race version of the Bechdel test:
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson posted the literal race version of the test and applied it to science fiction at The Angry Black Woman
  • Ars Marginal posted a version that required: "a movie must have: at least one named character of color, whose primary trait is not their race, who does something important besides help a White person." [1]

External linksEdit

Footnotes Edit

  1. A New New Bechdel Test
  2. Kelsey Powers. "The Furiosa Test developed from female presence in Mad Max: Fury Road." Calvin Chimes. November 6, 2015.
  3. A new test for charcter design...

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