Side Note

Is your movie too white and too male?

In 1985, cartoonist Alison Bechdel popularized a simple way of determining whether a movie (or any work of art) is worth your time: Does it feature at least two women? Do they talk about something other than a man? This week, critic Clarkisha Kent expanded on this idea with a test of her own, which serves as a guideline for whether women of color are adequately represented in books, movies, and other works of fiction.

The Kent Test, launched in cooperation with non-profit organization Equality for Her, isn’t a pass/fail kind of thing. Instead, there’s a point system and a range of scores from “abysmal” to “strong.” That means that a movie can’t just include one woman of color and call it a day; instead, the test explores some of the finer points of context and representation, such as whether a given character has her own narrative arc, or is instead solely included to prop up another (white) character.

For people who don’t see themselves in books, movies, or tv, representation is intuitive; you don’t necessarily need a checklist to tell whether you feel like a movie had a diverse cast of compelling characters. But the people who create these things definitely need a reminder, given the abysmal state of representation, in film and elsewhere, year after year. As Kent explained in the press release announcing the test, “This is not the end all be all test (but it is a good place to start).”