“Invisible Man…Got the Whole World Watching”


Last week, I wrote a quick post on my displeasure with a video that had premiered recently. The post could have very well been subtitled, “I Might Offend My Political Connects” for all of the clamor it caused amongst the camp. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Such is the life of a polemic. I found the video objectionable along race and gender lines and thought it subversive to the song in nature. While not wanting to retry the case, Brown(girls) vs. The Board of ChesterFrenchation, it did get me thinking about this intersection of color and sexuality.

In light of last week’s post (and in particular the comment section), I thought it would be wise to revisit the idea of a racial Bechdel test. For those unfamiliar, the Bechdel test was created by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. It serves as a sort of shorthand for evaluating film to determine gender bias. For a film to “pass”, it must do the following:

  1.  It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man. (Not limited to romantic relationships, for example two sisters talking about their father doesn’t pass)

Here’s the comic strip where the test was first introduced.

As invaluable as this cheat sheet is I began to wonder if we could apply this in a racial context. Can there be a racial Bechdel test? Can we evaluate racial bias using similar shorthand? I was pleased to find that others had asked this very question before and even the braver among us, have attempted to answer. Alaya Dawn Johnson for Theangryblackwoman.com offered her 2 cents of adaptation for film and TV:

  1. It has to have two POC (persons of color) in it.
  2. Who talk to each other.
  3. About something other than a white person.

When I think about the above list, I’m not sure if too much of our popular screen culture meets this criteria. I mean the #1 movie in the country, Think Like A Man, passes this test with flying colors (although there might be other issues in the film that bring us back to the original Bechdel test).

With that said, I don’t know – what do you guys think? Is this racial Bechdel test helpful? Are we missing something? How are your favorite films/shows stacking up? Can we solve racial inequality by looking into camera 2? Or should we just not talk about it?

Quiet on the set.



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