Have you ever heard of the Bechdel-Wallace Test, sometimes called the "Mo Money Measure" or simply The Rule? It's the idea of a character in "Dykes to Watch Out For," an important piece of LGBTQ pop culture from the 80s and 90s. It continues today and pops up on feminist blogs when discussing sexism in Hollywood. The Rule is a measure for whether a character from the comic strip will see a movie and it is:
1. The movie (or tv show) must have two female characters
2. The female characters must have a conversation with each other
3. The conversation must be on some topic other than the male characters
It is amazing how many movies don't pass the test. It's also not necessarily a good indicator of whether or not a work will be feminist. There are some movies that are extremely sexist that pass the test. But the point is, there is a test for movie goers to use to choose what kinds of movies they will pay to see. It's meant to be a baseline for equality for women in movies. It's not the be-all end-all of equality for women in movies, but it's a start.
So I've decided to create my own.
Have you seen the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie? Or maybe for Jungle Book's latest remake? Or heard the news about Stephen King's Dark Tower Adaptation? Well let me tell you what they include that many films don't; minority characters in lead roles. Ghostbusters includes Leslie Jones. The Jungle Book stars Neel Sethi. The Dark Tower adaptation will star Idris Elba as the lead, Roland, who is described in the books as a blue-eyed white man, a la Clint Eastwood. It's not necessarily a huge choice to include a black woman in the new Ghostbusters, since the original did have Winston. It's not such a big deal to include an Indian-American actor as Mowgli, and Indian character. But it is pretty huge to change Roland's entire look and all the illustrations of him with a black man. HOWEVER, even what I said about the first true characters isn't entirely true, since Hollywood loves to Racebend minorities into whities.
And this is where my rule comes in. It's a personal standard I have held for years, though I have not been strict in following it. So I'm putting it here, because it's time to get serious. I'm super tired of looking everywhere for interesting characters and seeing nothing but a sea of blondes and blue eyed actors with fair skin. I'm just over it. There are so many more colors in the world and it is fucking time we recognize that. Also, I'm getting tired of hearing that minority characters don't sell tickets. I call bullshit. I'm standing here, as the majority demographic, telling Hollywood that I will not pay for racist movies.
And how then do I determine what I'll see?
I need something basic and simple, like the Bechdel-Wallace test. I'm not trying to make this difficult. I'm not trying to turn Hollywood into Tyler Perry's universe. I'm just trying to find a way to see movies, a thing I love; in the theater, with that awesome big screen; in a way that makes me feel like I'm not actively supporting racism and excluding some of my fave minority actors from the roles I know they will kill. So here it is:
The New Rule:
For me to pay to see a movie, the movie must have:
1. A trailer featuring a minority character
2. That character must have a name
3. That actor must be billed in the trailer
Not complicated. Very simple. Sometimes, a little hard to meet in trailers that don't name the characters at all. If that is the case and no one has a name in the trailer, then the actor must be billed. I'm not trying to overly complicate the situation, but it is true that some movies will have minority actors who aren't billed in the trailer because they don't sell tickets. But I'm not ok with racism used in that sort of manner either. (This also includes cartoons, where it should be the absolute easiest to cast minorities because of all the musicians who can absolutely sell a cartoon!)
I've had this rule in my head for several years now, and I admit that I have not always followed it. It is hard when one of my fave actors shows up in a trailer for a movie I think will be awesome, but the trailer bills only white folk...like The Revenant. Adam went to see it and he told me that the trailer could easily have included one of the Native American actors. And then I could've seen the performance that won Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, something I've wanted forever. But I had to pass. Because I can't stand for it anymore.
When the scales are balanced and I can look at any given weekend or any given season for movies and have an equal number of casts with great minority roles as well as roles for Team Whitey, then I'll probably start seeing movies with all white casts. But until amazing directors like the Coen brothers stop using their own racism as an excuse to exclude minority actors from their movies, and try to act like it's because of storytelling, well then, I'm gonna have to stick to my rule.
Which is why I'm super excited about the new Ghostbusters, The Jungle Book, and The Dark Tower adaptation...because these are movies I can get excited about and look forward to seeing.