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The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction

It occurred to me, after reading this excellent post on women in fiction and the Bechdel Test, that perhaps you could construct one to address issues of POC and race. The analog seemed obvious, so I just wrote  it out.

1. It has to have two POC in it.

2. Who talk to each other.

3. About something other than a white person.

Now, you see the obvious issue there, right? Yeah, it has to do with number one.

Even in stories that feature prominent POC characters, it is so rare to find more than one present, let alone who know each other well enough to talk to each other, that I came up short on television shows or popular novels that even come close to meeting it.

Obviously, “urban lit” and other books that feature a mostly POC cast will pass this easily. But these books are so well segregated from the rest of mainstream fiction (see: the African American section of your local bookstore) that I wonder how best to include them in the discussion.

So, to make this easier to discuss, I’m going to limit myself to works of fiction or visual media in the science fiction/fantasy genres, since that’s what I read.

So, back to the POC!Bechdel test.

I’m going to list the television shows I can think that pass this test.

Battlestar Galactica : Dee and Geta had a great friendship that lasted pretty much the whole show. Also, there was the priestess from the planet of black fundamentalists, but I’m pretty sure she was only around to lead the dying white woman to her destiny.

True Blood: I’m not sure that Lafayette and Tara have a conversation that isn’t about Sookie or Jason, but Tara does argue a lot with her mother. And also with the witch woman about the “devils” inside her.

Okay, sorry, drawing a blank here. No Joss Whedon show passes (ha!). Supernatural doesn’t (unless you count “Route 666” a/k/a the racist monster truck episode…which I don’t). Being Human: nope. None of the Star Treks I’m familiar with do, though I’m not close to enough of a Trekkie to be sure of this.

Other shows that do, though they’re not in the SF/F genres (that experiment sure ended quickly!)

Grey’s Anatomy: frankly, the ease with which this show passes both the Bechdel test and my POC version of it makes me wish that it were, well, a better show. Which is not to say that the first few seasons didn’t have their charms and some snappy writing, but these days it’s just so…lugubrious and self-absorbed.

Veronica Mars. This show had Wallace, one of the most awesome black characters on TV (until the third season ruined him, at least). It also has Weevil, who was Hispanic, and they definitely had conversations. Unfortunately, they were all about Veronica. However, it passes because Wallace has conversations with both his mom and dad (and, later, with Jackie). Weirdly enough, Veronica Mars has a way harder time passing the actual Bechdel test. I don’t think an honest f/f conversation (not about men) occurs until Mac becomes a recurring character in the second season.

I’m sure there are others. You should let me know about them in the comments!

As for fiction, there must be significantly more in the genre that passes this test. All of Octavia Butler’s work easily passes it. Liar by Justine Larbalestier (now with a much better cover!) passes it a dozen times over (along with every other novel she’s published).

However, I’ll say that when a novel is written in close third or first from the POV of someone who is not a person of color, that makes it extremely difficult to fulfill the second and third criteria of the test, since by necessity the main character  will need to be present in all conversations (or, at least, overhearing them). So, the Bechdel test (either version) is hardly a failsafe arbiter of works that are sexist or racist. It’s just a baseline, and something that can reveal problematic trends. Like the fact that I can only think of two genre television shows that meet this incredibly low bar.

So, something to think about. And in the meantime, Bechdel test (either version) your favorite creative works and see how they fare.

159 thoughts on “The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction”

  1. Katarin says:

    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine passes your POC version of the Bechdel test because Sisko has long conversations with his son Jake, his girlfriend Cassie, Worf, Dr. Bashir and the Klingon General Martok about tons of stuff that isn’t white folks. It sort of helps that he’s the main character and a POC though.

  2. Laura M says:

    Star Trek:TNG hinges on whether you count Worf as a PoC, really (the other would be Geordi). IIRC people tend to be split on that one, some thinking that counting (often violent/brutish) aliens as PoC is insulting, others going with it because they are played by non-white actors…fraid I don’t know where you stand on that.

    Not really a TOS person, but I’m pretty sure Uhura and Sulu had conversations about techie stuff (and there’s that episode where she hit on him); ditto Tuvok and Harry in the Voyager bridge crew, though it’s hardly a high bar. And DS9, as Katarin says, passes it by far the best – it’s the only one where the non-white/PoC characters have significant relationships with each other beyond exchanging information on the bridge.

    1. The Angry Black Woman says:

      I count Worf as POC because within the world of the show, he is often in the position of the POC on the ship. Only Klingon in Starfleet, Federation is mostly prejudiced against Klingons due to past conflicts, Worf has to navigate assimilation, self-identity, and sometimes even self-hate. At one point on DS9 Jadzia points out to him that the Klingon ideals he adheres so strictly to are not even followed by most Klingons. This reaction — being hyper Klingon — comes from attempting to build identity inside a culture not his own. It’s very typical, but not stereotypical. I think Worf was written better and deeper once he got to DS9, but TNG gave him a lot, too.

    2. Jennifer Pelland says:

      Don’t forget Chakotay in your Voyager discussion. And I’d probably also count B’Elanna Torres.

      1. Julia Sullivan says:

        Yes, this. Chakotay, Kim, Bashir, and Laforge are all humans of color who often work together, so you don’t even need aliens to pass a Bechdel-like test.

        1. Julia Sullivan says:

          Sorry, that got totally mangled and seemed like I was mixing up all the Trekiverses together. What I meant to say was “Chakotay, Kim, Bashir, and Laforge are all humans of color who often work together with supporting characters played by/as other humans of color, so you don’t even need aliens…”

          Also, remember that Worf delivered Kieko O’Brien’s first baby and Bashir performed an operation transferring her second baby to Kira for surrogacy, which was both the longest and most ethnically/interstellarly diverse OB-GYN story arc in all of TV SF.

          1. Laura M says:

            All good points – I forgot to mention Keiko, and I love her.

            1. Laura M says:

              …though not enough, apparently, to type her name correctly. *headdesk*

            2. Laura M says:

              no, no, I was right first time! Will stop unhelpfully comment spamming now.

      2. quinfirefrorefiddle says:

        Actually, Chakotay and B’Elanna were the first two I thought of. B’Elanna’s father, I’m almost certain, was Hispanic. And Chakotay’s heritage was emphasized, if pretty crappily treated. They were, however, practically best friends at the start of the show (not counting B’Elanna’s sad little crush on him that TPTB added in passing for one episode) and they talked about everything. Also, B’Elanna and Harry developed a slightly weird friendship during the run of the show, enough so that, before she was paired off with Paris, there was a sizable group expecting Torres/Kim to actually happen. They didn’t exactly flirt, but there was some major trust going on. And Tuvok and Harry did have a few nice scenes together as science-y guys, I think.

        1. Laura M says:

          Yes, I am a complete dolt to have missed them out! And I love Voyager (oftentimes defensively against the rest of trek-fandom), too.

      3. softestbullet says:

        Yeah, even if we aren’t counting Klingons — her father was Latino, I believe.

    3. QoT says:

      My partner and I rewatched the entirety of DS9 last year, and (having only previously watched up to season 3 or so as a teen) I was blown away when I realised that of the entire main cast (as characters rather than actors) there are no white male American humans, and the only same-race same-species relationships are between human COCs.

  3. Mike says:

    Joss Whedon’s Firefly!

    Zoe & Shepherd Book.

    Although for a show that supposedly mixes Chinese & American cultures, it’s oddly devoid of Asian characters.

    1. slythwolf says:

      Admittedly I haven’t watched all the Firefly episodes as many times as a more hardcore fan might, but what conversations do Zoe and Book really have? I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

      1. handyhunter says:

        I don’t recall very much conversation between Zoe and Book, though they had this exchange, which maybe doesn’t count, since they’re still talking about (killing or not) white people?

        Zoe: Preacher, don’t the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?
        Book: Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

        And the scene about Book’s hair, but that’s also about River…

      2. Mike says:

        Hrmm… point. I think Zoe stitched Book up after he had been shot. And I remember those two + Jayne doing a lot of gabbing when Mal & Wash got nabbed, but all that conversation probably violates “talking about a white person” rule.

        Still, for half a season, I think the show had promise. 4 females, 2 PoC in a 9 person cast.

      3. Matthew Daly says:

        There isn’t a lot, but there wasn’t enough Firefly on all counts. Like somebody said, they have a good scene at 23:30 in Safe (*hugs Hulu*) where Zoe is stitching up Book in the infirmary and telling war stories.

        I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned (for good or ill) the scene in Jaynestown where they have a conversation about hair:

        B: River? Please, why don’t you come on out.
        R: No! Can’t. Too much … hair.
        B: Is that it?
        Z: Hell yes, preacher. If I didn’t have stuff to get done, I’d be in there with her.

        1. softestbullet says:

          It’s sad that one of the few passing conversations Book & Zoe had was about how natural Black hair is scary. :/

    2. Alaya Dawn Johnson says:

      Honestly, I really did try to go through Firefly, because it’s the only Whedon show that has a prayer of passing, but I’m not sure that any of the conversations between Zoe and Book count. I’d love to be proved wrong, though. For the purposes of the test, I think it’s better if the conversation isn’t even obliquely about white people (which is how I’d count the one they have about firearms before they go to save Mal).

      For the record, I love Firefly :) And it might be unfair to subject it to this test, because of course it only had about half a season.

      1. Tablesaw says:

        Amazingly, Angel manages to eke out one pass, when Gunn and his sister Alonna have a conversation about their past and also the fact that she’s a demon now.

        And that wraps it up for Angel.

  4. Laura M says:

    A Wizard of Earthsea – and, I assume, the other books – also definitely passes it.

    1. BWrites says:

      The second book, IIRC, may not, but the others do.

  5. David says:

    How do you define POC in Sci Fi? I mean, if a white actor plays a bluskinned alien, do you go by actor or character?

    1. Juan says:

      I’d say by actor. If you went by the character… well not only (in my feelings) does it carry that ‘PoC equated with alien’ tone but also comes off as a cop out if you’re by character rather than actor.

      Works that consist of voice acting, e.g. Avatar the Last Airbender, I’ll have to get back to you on. =p

      1. yeloson says:

        Exactly. There’s still a problem if we’re talking about shows in which they couldn’t find it in themselves to get any POC actors but decided to paint everyone up. Otherwise, stuff like David Carradine’s Kung Fu would pass the test…

  6. katyhalo says:

    Both the Stargate series would pass, though that just goes to show the limitations of the Bechdel Test/variations thereof for detecting skeevyness. Avatar: the Last Airbender would pass by virtue of there not being any white characters in the first place.

    1. The Angry Black Woman says:

      I would not agree about Stargate. There are times when POC talk to each other, but rarely are they not talking about white people.

      1. Darkrose says:

        Actually–not that I want to give the SGA writing team credit for anything!–but if you count Ronon and Teyla as POC’s, then when they actually get screen time, they’re often not talking about the white boys. In particular, I’m thinking about the beginning of “Broken Ties,” when Ronon’s teasing Teyla about her partner–who is played by a brown actor. And of course, there’s Ronon trying to convince Teyla that “Ronon is a good name for a boy or a girl.

        1. Travis says:

          Yeah, as bad as SGA is, there have definitely been convos between Ronon and Teyla that didn’t not center around white people. Not a lot, considering it ran for five years! But they’re there.

      2. Meg says:

        Actually, the problem with the test for TV shows (as opposed to movies) is: do you count guest stars?

        As an Stargate fan (we all have our vices), I’m really uncomfortable saying that the two series do pass the test when, for a long time, they both were bereft of any significant POC presence. Besides the rather skanky “all the evil Jaffa are POC” thing they had going on and well, skanky show was skanky.

        But if guest stars count, then both shows pass early on.

        Stargate SG-1 passes because Teal’c talks to other Jaffa and to Apophis frequently about things that don’t concern white people – especially in flashbacks of his past. Also, eventually he goes back to Chulak and talks to his son and wife.

        But, if you only count regulars, then no. The entire show fails the Bechdel test because Teal’c was the only regular of color there.

        Same with Atlantis. If you count guest stars, then it passed early because Teyla spoke to some of her people who were also POC about things – but conversations were brief and yes, usually did roll back around to talking about how great the Atlantis team was.

        But it wasn’t until Ronon came along that there was another POC regular for her to have conversations with.

        Law & Order is another good example. They had Paul Robinette in the first few seasons, and he often did talk to defendants, prosecutors, and other guests who were POC about their cases or the law or what not, but does that count? Because his two bosses and the police at that time were all white and most of his screen time was spent next to a couple of old white dudes.

        1. katyhalo says:

          Well on SGA Ford was a regular before he became a Space Junkie and was replaced with Ronon, but I don’t remember whether he and Teyla had many conversations at all, let alone ones that weren’t about the white characters.

          You’ve got a really good point about whether or not recurring/guest characters count though, which would make a big difference for a lot of shows.

    2. Tablesaw says:

      I finally remembered where I’d seen a Bechdel test that looked at race. Dsudis went through the first three seasons of SG1 counting characters and checking for the Bechdel Test and the “Race-Bechdel Test.” Season 1 included this description for why “Tin Man” is given the grade “FAIL!”:

      There are two people of color but TEAL’C IS BOTH OF THEM, AND ONLY ONE IS ALIVE/CONSCIOUS/A BIOLOGICAL ENTITY AT A TIME.</blockquote

  7. Leah says:

    Numb3rs has a diverse cast. Are the POC primary characters/leads? That’s up for debate.

    1. Katarin says:

      It’s sort of difficult on Numb3rs because the main family is Jewish and though there are Jewish POCs, being Jewish doesn’t automatically make you POC. On the other hand, actors such as Judd Hirsch and David Krumholtz don’t exactly look white.

      It does pass the Johnson test though because David, Amita, Nikki and Liz talk about cases, math, their careers and other, non-white people type stuff.

    2. The Angry Black Woman says:

      I count the POC main characters as leads in that show because even though the focus is on Charlie and Don, the FBI team and Amita + Larry are all clearly important, gets stories focused on them that aren’t OMG I AM IN DANGER and have significant character development.

      NUMB3RS has stumbled about a few things, but they do seem to be aware of issues surrounding women and POC on television. David is awesome and I’ve yet to see him horribly stereotypes, the whole Liz thing with her being in love with Don could have been played out so much worse, when Megan (who was also awesome) left they brought in a black woman to replace her and, again, no ickiness surrounding any of it, and though I get tired of Amita capitulating to Charlie’s crazy all of the time, she is always shown as very smart, independent, and with her own flashes of insight that save the day.

      Liz and Nikki have conversations that don’t involve men or white people, but I don’t think Liz and Amita interact enough. Megan and Amita would often talk just case stuff. David and Amita also talk case stuff. And I do believe we’re going to see more David/Nikki interactions. But not them pairing off, yay! (Instead she gets Lou Diamond Phillips — when the hell did he get so hot??)

  8. Cheryl Trooskin-Zoller says:

    ABC’s Defying Gravity currently meets the POC criteria, though if the Big Scary Mystery-or-Alien-or-Something they talk about turns out to be a white dude, that might not be the case anymore. (I haven’t seen the most-recent episode yet, so I apologise that my missing information might make this suggestion wrong.)

  9. jadelennox says:

    The amazing one-season Middleman, which stars a Latina character (Wendy Watson, played by Natalie Morales), who has frequent conversations with secondary character Noser (played by Jake Smollett). In a kind of unheard of twist, in the comic upon which the television show was based, both characters were white, and they became characters of color when it got made into a television show. An amazing, hysterically funny, tragically short-lived television show which is currently out on DVD.

  10. The Angry Black Woman says:

    Maybe we should call this new test the Johnson Test. It’s brilliant.

    Voyager counts, but by an eensy bit, because Chakotay and B’Ellana sometimes talk about stuff that isn’t ship/crew stuff.

    1. slythwolf says:

      Do Chakotay and/or B’elanna ever talk to Tuvok?

      Also, speaking of Star Trek, I haven’t watched a lot of the later seasons of Deep Space Nine, but I’m wondering if Worf ever has any conversations with Sisko that aren’t about Jadzia or the other white people on the station.

      1. Cora says:

        Tuvok, I’d forgotten him. I now want to go back and rewatch the early seasons, looking for places that Chakotay, Torres, Kim, and Tuvok talk to one another, and see what about. I’d bet that they talk about things like alien parasites or tachyon pulses at some point and therefore pass the test, but I’m not sure how much of that is wishful thinking. (I’m tentatively counting both Torres and Tuvok, because they have nonwhite actors — unlike the other aliens, which have white actors — but I think Torres is a stronger case than Tuvok, because not only is her actress Hispanic, her human-half parent is, too.)

  11. capitalgirl says:

    It’s been a long while since I’ve read them, but as I recall Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books would likely pass the POC version of the Bechdel test. And as far as I know, everything she’s ever published has passed the original Bechdel test, which was a breath of fresh air I didn’t even know I needed as an eleven-yr-old fantasy fan back in the day.

    1. Dragonbait says:

      I’d have to go back and look again, but I think a lot of her later work would pass. The Bazhir have conversations among themselves that are not about her in Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Thayet and Buri talk about their childhoods and families in Lioness Rampant, and IIRC, The Immortals series also features a fair few great POC characters who know and interact with each other.

  12. delagar says:

    I’m trying to think if Bones counts. It has a number of POC in the cast, and they have their own plot arcs. I’m almost sure they sometimes talk about something besides Bones and Seely Booth…the trouble in, their plot arcs almost always are linked up with the white characters, so.

    1. BWrites says:

      Bones counts. Angela and Cam sometimes talk about the case at hand, and I think I remember at least one conversation about pop culture.

      1. The Angry Black Woman says:

        I think, but am not sure, that the original test also mentions that they have to talk about something other than work.

        1. Mary says:

          The original comic seems to only exclude conversations about men: The Rule.

        2. SunlessNick says:

          I don’t think so, because I remember debate about whether two female cops discussing a male criminal was a pass (work) or fail (man). But that would be a way to calibrate an “advanced pass.”

        3. Julia says:

          Cam and her adopted daughter have conversations about stuff including the daughter’s dead dad.

      2. Julia says:

        Cam has also talked to Angela’s first husband who was of African descent (and sex0red him).

        The Bones episode “The Man in the Morgue” had multiple POC characters in it, mostly black and creole, including several black medical professionals and a black or creole cop. They discussed the death of a black John Doe, voodoo (there were several practitioners in the episode, and voodoo was treated fairly respectfully).

        “The Skull in the Desert” has multiple Native characters (and at least one multiracial character) who mostly discuss potential crimes.

        “The Girl in the Mask” focuses on the death of a Japanese woman and has several Japanese people talking to each other (and to Cam and Angela) about the case.

        “The Doctor in the Den” features an ex of Cam’s, who is black, and his daughter. Cam and the daughter discuss the murdered ex.

        “Player Under Pressure” has a black coach talking to his daughter and some of his basketball players who are POC.

        “The Girl in Suite 2103” features a latino family.

        Assessing the conversations are difficult since they’re often crime related.

  13. Kit Kendrick says:

    Eureka doesn’t do too badly, with Alison, Henry and Deputy Lupo in the main cast.

    1. Katarin says:

      I really love Eureka and I often feel like they do a pretty good job by their POC and female characters.

    2. RivkaT says:

      I’m so glad you mentioned Eureka!

  14. Ellen says:

    I agree with Tempest; we should call this the Johnson test!

    I can’t think of many other TV examples (books are, as you say, much easier), but my favorite TV show to talk up passes both the Bechdel and the Johnson tests: The Middleman. It’s a fantastic, funny show, and the main character is a Hispanic woman who discusses things other than men with her female roommate and things other than white people with her black friend.

    (I guess it’s ostensibly a kids’ show, being on ABC Family, but it’s clearly genre — most of the baddies are aliens.)

    Torchwood would pass, I think, though narrowly; I can think of three prominent POC characters — Suzie, who was killed off in the first episode (but came back); Toshiko (who was killed off later on in the show); and Martha (crossing over from Doctor Who, and only in a few episodes). I’m pretty sure Toshiko had conversations with both of the others, but I don’t remember specifically what they were about. Can anyone who’s watched more recently chime in?

    Outside of SFF, with three major recurring POC characters who are on a police force together, I feel sure Dexter must pass, but again, I can’t think of specific conversations to clinch this. (And they no doubt spend a lot of time discussing the white main character, too.)

    1. Cecca says:

      Dexter definitely passes; LaGuerta & Doakes had a few conversations about Doakes’ life, LaGuerta & what’s-her-name-Lt.-from-season-2 talked about the fiancee & LaGuerta and the fiancee talked about the Lt.

    2. auktastic says:

      Dexter passes with flying colors. Besides the instances mentioned above (Doakes & LaGuerta, LaGuerta & Lt. Pascal, LaGuerta & Bertrand), there’s also the episode where Doakes tracks down one of his old Special Ops buddies who had killed his girlfriend, and they talk about what they went through and the resulting PTSD that they both seem to suffer from (the other guy a bit more than Doakes, it seemed). Also, there’s LaGuerta comforting the little Cuban boy in “Return to Sender.” And Angel and his wife talking about their relationship.

      As for the original Bechdel test, the first thing that comes to mind is when Debra helped LaGuerta with her contact lens in the bathroom, and then asked why she hated her so much. Does Rita’s first onscreen conversation with her mom count? Paul was part of that conversation, but the main focus was the relationship between the two women, and the fact that they hadn’t seen each other in some time.

  15. Amal El-Mohtar says:

    MIDDLEMAN! Passes both tests. Wendy and Noser have an awesome friendship, as do Wendy and Lacey.

    I also think FIREFLY passes the test — don’t Book and Zoe talk about things that aren’t white people?

    Much as I can’t believe I’m saying this, because the show irks me so damn much, LOST.

  16. osiyo says:

    Heroes. It has two Japanese heroes that talk to each other about most everything going on. Mostly, about their friendship and future, and the world’s future.

  17. osiyo says:

    Oh and in True Blood

    Tara and Eggs

  18. slythwolf says:

    Holly Black’s Valiant might pass. I have to reread it to see. The protagonist is white, but two of the three characters she’s squatting with are black, and are brothers, and I’m fairly sure they have a bunch of conversations that aren’t about her or the other girl who squats with them (who may be a Latina, I don’t remember).

    Although they do have a fair number of conversations that are about the girls. But mostly they seem to be focused on the main plot, which has to do with fairies and magic and someone poisoning the exiled fairies’ medicine.

  19. samantha2074 says:

    I’m kind of embarrassed to even bring this up, but I’ve seen bits and pieces of a couple of the Cheetah Girl movies, and three of the four main characters are POCs. And, yes, there’s a lot of boy-talk and clothes-talk, which I find off-putting, but they also talk about their music and their friendship.

  20. Ireneybean says:

    What about Lost?

    Well to start with there’s Jin and Sun who regularly have conversations unrelated to white people … Michael and Walt, Ana Lucia, Sayid, Miles and Pierre Chnag, Matthew Abaddon, Mr Eko, Rose, Naomi(?). Michael/Jin/Sun even have a complex and evolving multi-epside-spanning relationship dynamic that doesn’t involve white people at all.

    1. Tablesaw says:

      Don’t forget Hugo “Hurley” Reyes! Hurley & Miles discussing space-time paradoxes was the highlight of last season.

    2. Momsomniac says:

      Lost passes the Johnson test, but I am not sure about the Bechtel test. Do the women talk to each other about anything other than men (and babies)?

      I do enjoy Hurley and Miles together. The actor who plays Miles is AMAZING. I DO wish the one and only love triangle (Sun/Michael/Jin) that was the least bit intriguing had not evaporated….instead we get a lot of people acting like high-school students…but I digress…

      1. SunlessNick says:

        Lost passes the Bechdel test too, but you have to think more to remember the examples.

        1. Momsomniac says:

          Okay Nick – I’ll bite. Help me remember a conversation between 2 women that wasn’t about men or babies on Lost? Please. I watch this show and now this is bugging me.

          1. Ireneybean says:

            hmmm … Well, I don’t remember a specific example of one of their conversations but Rousseau/Alex seems like a likely candidate for such a conversation. Let’s see if Nick can enlighten us with something more specific.

    3. janne says:

      Ana-Lucia and her police-captain mother argued about A-L going back on patrol her first day back on the force after being shot. Whew – that was close!

  21. Heathe says:

    For Canadian youth out there, the later seasons of Degrassi the Next Generation pass both tests

    1. Cheryl says:

      Not to mention Little Mosque on the Prairie.

  22. miera_c says:

    I can think of an episode of “Firefly” where Zoe and Book talk about his hair, but it’s in the context of his hair scaring River (a white girl). I’m not sure if they had any other conversations of any length.

    Without commenting on the myriad of other problems with it, the “Trinity” episode of Stargate: Atlantis featured the two POC characters away from the others, confronting each other about their individual histories and roles, all of which did not involve the white cast other than tangentially. (Again, I’m not touching the vast array of other problems with that episode and the rest of the show.)

    The West Wing had only one POC in the cast during most of its run, but Charlie did have rare moments of interacting with guest actors who were POC and talked about something other than white people (his sister, the woman he dated briefly). I don’t recall Jimmy Smits interacting with any other POC (his primary staff were mostly white though there was one woman who was black and one who was of Asian descent, his wife was white). You’d have to extending it to recurring characters like John Amos and Anna Deveare Smith who played the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the National Security Advisor, respectively, to get beyond that.

  23. Karen says:

    Everybody Hates Chris. Heroes (for about one season). Static Shock (dont know if cartoon are included but w/e). and the Jackson 5ive show ( :D )

    and the up and coming Flash Forward looks promising.

  24. RMJ says:

    Amal above mentions Lost; while definitely problematic, it definitely passes your test.

    Sun & Jin talk to each other about her father, her lover, their child, etc. Sun and Jin both talk to her father about a number of different business/violence things. Sayid and Nadia have conversation about torture and love. Hurley and Jin and occasionally Sayid talk frequently about many of the wacky things that happen in that universe. Hurley and his father have conversations about cars and candy. Hurley and his mom talk about the curse of his money. Hurley and Sun have conversations about Jin and her child. That’s off the top of my head; I’m sure there are more.

    I’m having a little more trouble with Lost’s passing the Bechdel 1.0 test… hmm. I know Sun had a conversation with Juliet about pre-natal vitamins. Juliet had conversations with the therapist that didn’t center around the therapist’s husband. Juliet talked to her sister about getting pregnant. I can’t think of a conversation Kate has had with a woman that’s not about a man…

    In King of the Hill, which has issues with race, the Laotian Khan family is the subject of a number of episodes centered around them, which include a number of conversations amongst themselves about familial issues – the episode in which Connie gets her period comes to mind, and the episode in which the grandfather comes to visit the family.

    I don’t believe that the Sopranos passes – PoC are not entirely invisible, but most of their conversations are with Italian white people or about them, or involve them. When Jackie stays with the black family, I believe you see the father playing chess with his daughter, but the conversation involves Jackie.

    Sorry for the novel!

  25. interleaper says:

    I’m only partway into season 1, but The Wire is passing both tests so far. (The Bechdel test, not by much, but there have been a couple of scenes with Greggs discussing law school with her partner)

  26. karinova says:

    I know it’s off the air now, but I immediately thought of Homicide and The Wire.
    Also, Law & Order (the original; I don’t know about the spinoffs.)

    And Dexter was awesome in this regard.
    I’m kind of over the show now, but damn, it was such a pleasure to watch a whole buttload of PoC/CoC just brewing about in a demographically accurate way. (Sure, it seems so obvious— it’s Miami!— but “It’s New York!!” didn’t help Sex & the City, Friends, etc etc ad nauseam.) They’re cops, civilians, victims, villains, and it is not a big deal. Nice.

    Next step? Having these PoC actually refer to being golden/brown on occasion. Not like I’m asking for it to be a constant bitch sesh (it isn’t in real life), and I’m SURE not asking for them to get all preachy, but on most of these shows, the day-to-daynesses of race rarely if ever comes up, which is also not exactly accurate. It comes up.
    The shows tend to be a little… colorblind. If you know what I mean.

    Then again, I don’t know. Maybe that’s too much to ask, what with The Law Of Conservation Of Detail.

  27. Ide Cyan says:

    A TV reporter named Deggans and Natalie Morales from The Middleman came up with some rules of their own a while ago.

    …SF shows with POC meeting the rule: Red Dwarf, though it didn’t have women in it until the last couple of seasons, had two Black leads: Lister and the Cat, who did talk to each other about other things than white people fairly often.

    Charlie Jade was set in South Africa and might pass, just — I don’t recall the POC or the female characters interacting much directly, but they were there.

    Dexter isn’t quite SF, but frequently meets the rule for POC, though more rarely when it comes to women.

    OZ had tons of characters of colour, though a majority were criminals, but they also had Father Mukada, Sister Pete, the doctor and the warden who weren’t.

  28. karinova says:

    Oh, and is it possible to preemptively revoke a show’s technical passing of the Johnson Test? If so, I nominate Weeds. There are plenty of PoC, but… oh my god, that show.

    To be fair, every character on that show is a loathsome caricature. It sets everyone back 200 years. So I suppose it’s equal-opportunity that way.

  29. Lydia says:

    Bones would qualify. Angela has conversations both with Dr. Goodman and Dr. Saroyan about her career or the cases they’re working on.

    Friday Night Lights would also qualify, especially the storylines with Smash and his family and his girlfriend. The first couple of seasons, at least; I haven’t seen it since then.

  30. Leah M says:

    The Closer passes the Johnson test for sure. The Bechdel, marginally.

  31. rj says:

    How about this for the ultimate Bechdel test:
    1. two women of colour
    2. have a conversation
    3. about something other than a white person or a man
    Sounds pretty reasonable since there’s so much stuff about two white men who have a conversations about something other than men or colour or women. But it’s so hard to find. The only thing I can think about that would pass this is Nalo Hopkinson’s works. I’m not even sure if Ursela LeGuin’s Earthsea passes this! And I cannot think of a television show or movie either that would get through this test.

    1. lilacsigil says:

      The Middleman passes this one – Wendy talks to her mother about her art and her job.

    2. Jesse the K says:

      Nisi Shawl’s awesome short story collection, Filter House, which won the Tiptree Award this year, passes the Bechdel-Johnson test many times over.

    3. jadelennox says:

      Grey’s Anatomy, every time Callie and Bailey talk about medicine, which happens with some frequency.

    4. softestbullet says:

      Haha, holy shit. :( That’s a tall order.

      Depending on if we count Avatar: the Last Airbender (the main voice actors are almost all white), it passes with Katara & Toph, and Azula, Tai Lee, and Mai.

    5. Tamsin says:

      I think some Tamora Pierce books may pass this test.
      And do would The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, which is a YA fantasy/SciFi novel set in post-apocalyptic Niger and Nigeria and which I highly recommend.

      1. Tamsin says:

        *so would. Stupid typos.

    6. Iain Coleman says:

      The WIre would pass this one pretty handily.

  32. Julia Rios says:

    In Psych, Gus sometimes sees his family, and I’m pretty sure conversations happen that aren’t always about Shawn. Still, Psych is weighted against this because episodes with Gus’s family are rare.

    In addition to what’s already been noted, Lafayette and Tara argue about Eggs a lot in True Blood, for whatever that’s worth.

    I wholeheartedly add my endorsement to The Middleman, though! I love Noser and Wendy, and the fact that they routinely talk about random stuff.

    1. softestbullet says:

      James Roday is Latino! But… his character is totally white.

      1. Alison says:

        Wow, really? I did not know that…and now I wonder whether to be ashamed of myself or of the show or both, especially considering that ridiculous episode where he put on heavy makeup and guest starred in a Spanish soap opera.

  33. Travis says:

    Ugly Betty. The main character and her family are all Latin@. Her sister’s three boyfriends have all been Latino. Betty’s boyfriend’s friend was Asian and there is a gossip newscaster character who’s Asian. Wilhelmina is black, and her sister and daughter have both been on several episodes. There have been a couple other black characters that showed up in a few eps as well.

    Leverage…? There’s Aldis Hodge, and apparently Christian Kane identifies as Native American, but there’s the question of “is anyone reading him as such”.

    1. BWrites says:

      Christian Kane is (part) Native American; it’s in his offical bio and apparently he talks about/celebrates his heritage at his concerts. But that still leaves the ‘is anyone reading him as such/is his character’ question

    2. cofax says:

      At least one episode had Hardison and an Asian woman character geeking out over World of Warcraft…

      1. softestbullet says:

        I LOVED THAT SO MUCH. And I kind of ship them.

  34. karinova says:

    Sorry for the commentspam, but the Johnson Rule has been knocking around in my head for hours, and I finally thought of a show where the PoC actually acknowledge that they’re PoC, without Helping Everybody Learn Something: Scrubs.

    Yes, it was a silly/absurdist show (is it still on?), but the friendship between JD and Turk and their easiness with race— but not total colorblindness— rang very true, at least to me. My BFF since age 7 is white; this is very close to how we interact. (ex: The time we put beauty masque on our faces, which dried chalk white. At one point she glanced at us both in the mirror and casually said, “What’s up, Amos?” to which I immediately responded, “Not much, Andy!” and we both all but died laughing, our masques flaking into the sink. She’s the only person I know who could have pulled that off. Still makes me laugh to this day.)

    I also love that Carla is realistically complex with regard to race/culture— for example, she kept her name after marrying Turk, in homage to her Dominican heritage (a decision that was actually shown in the program). And she’s pointed out more than once that she’s not Mexican or Puerto Rican— “C’mon! How long have you known me? I’m Dominican!” But at the same time, we’re made to understand that she is in fact a natural born US’an. That may seem minor, but as an immigrant who honestly feels like I have two homelands (I say “we” when I speak of either country), and who has known TONS of people who similarly “claim two cultures,” I really really liked that.

  35. Tarrin says:

    I’m pretty sure Sulu and Uhura have a conversation about music during the original Star Trek.

    1. Alison says:

      Also, Mirror!Sulu and Uhura have a conversation about whether Uhura is playing hard to get or not in Mirror, Mirror.

  36. Pope Lizbet says:

    As for True Blood, Lafayette and Tara have a conversation in Episode 1 about Tara’s mama, the depressing frequency of these phone calls, and the party he’s going to. Short, but it’s there.

    As for books, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game and The Gypsy Game both pass while being problematic on other grounds. I think at least some of William Gibson’s stuff passes, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Ring, of course, passes. Some of Larbalestier’s other stuff seems like it passes (How to Ditch your Fairy) but I’d have to re-read it to be sure. The Orphan’s Tales pass, as does Palimpsest. Even some Heinlein passes that I can think of, as does some M.R. Sellars.

  37. Angel says:

    Seconding the Homicide mention. During most of its 7 season run there were at least three characters of color in the main cast. These characters had relationships as complex and important with each other as they did with the show’s white characters. One of the things I most appreciated is that the characters of color don’t hold the same opinions on race; they get to be individuals with their own points of view! It’s a brilliant, really satisfying show. The only problem I had with it is that 90% of the time the characters of color are all men. The invisibility of women of color in the main gets addressed in the later seasons, but the problem is there.

  38. Léna says:

    Clearly, Buffy and Angel shows of Whedon fail, except if you count secondary/minor characters (like Nikki and Robin Wood or Gunn and his sister). But for me, Dollhouse pass the test, with the relationship between Asian-Sierra and the Arab-Victor.

    By the way, thanks a lot for this blog. Since I live in a country who believe in the Republican colourblind myth (France), I’ve been teached that a racist is “just” a personn who will refuse to hire a POC / throw bananas to black soccer players / think all POC are “stealing jobs”, it’s really useful to read about inconscious racism and White privilege.

    1. ANON says:

      Yes, Dollhouse absolutely passes.

  39. liz says:


    1. karinova says:

      Yeah, but he’s constantly talking about white people!
      Mostly laying them down by the fire.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen him speak to the only other PoC on the show— Token (heh).

      1. liz says:

        They talk about cooking, food, marriage, and stupidity. And cheese. Chef, Everton, Chef’s wife all talk with each other about stuff and the sous chef is Asian.

  40. Maharet says:

    I’m going off memory here, but Pushing Daisies: The coroner and Emerson have conversations about hand cream early in season 1, and later about bribes.

    1. Travis says:

      There’s Emerson and his girlfriend in a few eps, too, and later one ep with his ex-wife.

  41. shah8 says:

    Damn, Maharet! I was going to mention Pushing Daisies. It’s one of the few shows that seriously passes the race Bechdel test using major characters, involving natural, expositive discussions on a wide variety of topics.

    1. janne says:

      And the two lead women rarely talked about men because they were both in love with the same one.

  42. Therem says:

    Space: Above and Beyond did pretty well on this test. Two out of six of the main cast (Damphousse and Wang) were POC and were beginning to develop a relationship near the end of the show’s single season. The supporting and guest cast also had a lot of POCs.

  43. gravyrug says:

    Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series of books passes easily.

  44. H says:

    I am considering Doctor Who as qualifying, particularly after the introduction of Martha Jones’ character— in just the opening scene introducing her, she speaks with each of her parents, her brother and her sister on the phone in succession, who also feature throughout the series. I recall her interacting with Chipo Chung, a Tanzanian actress from Zimbabwe. She also interacts with Mickey Smith, and Toshiko Sato on Torchwood, as well as a lot of supporting characters who are black.

    Doctor Who had a great opportunity to explore white privilege with Martha being the Doctor’s first non-white companion, and they didn’t exactly go for it. There is a scene in which Martha and the Doctor arrive in Elizabethan England to see Shakespeare, and Martha asks if she’ll be all right, if she’ll be carted off to become a slave. The Doctor replies breezily to blend in, not to worry, an ‘act like you own the place’ mentality. Interesting, though, that members of the Doctor’s species (a humanoid alien) have been shown as white and black. Perhaps next time the Doctor will regenerate with non-white features and finally have to confront his white-Time-Lord privilege whilst wandering on Earth.

    1. Alison says:

      There is the episode where they live in the past for some three months undercover, and she deals with a lot of racism there. I think it says a lot about the Doctor’s character that he didn’t bother to consider her interests when picking a hiding-time, but it’s not really explored in the episode.

  45. Iris says:

    Also on Battlestar Galactica (if we’re going by actors’ ethnicities and not just the characters’), you have Helo and Athena, whose relationship was front and center for all four seasons and they shared many many scenes alone together. Helo was played by Tahmoh Penikett, who is half Native American/Canadian, and Athena was played by Grace Park, who’s Korean.

    1. softestbullet says:

      Yes, definitely. And they had lots of conversations about their mixed-race kid. :)

  46. Nicole says:

    How about New York Undercover? Classic show, with 2 POC as the leads. Then you have Girlfriends, The Wire, etc…

  47. Shev says:

    I know it’s not sci-fi or television, but Bechdel’s strips themselves pass – there are plenty of POC, and whilst they all talk a lot about relationships, there’s also plenty of political discussion.

  48. Olivia says:

    I’ll add The Closer. Several of the detectives are POC. I think Saving Grace would pass in some episodes.

  49. Maureen says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned House yet – Foreman and Kutner have talked to PoC patients about their medical conditions, their upbringing, etc, and there was a subplot in one episode about Foreman’s mom having Alzheimer’s. (OTOH, I don’t think I’ve seen Foreman and Kutner have a conversation with each other that wasn’t about House, Thirteen, or perhaps Taub.)

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  52. Morgan says:

    The book series Animorphs passes the test. Cassie was African American and Marco was Hispanic, and they talked a lot about all sorts of things (including other white people, but mostly about his mom, fear and what not).

  53. iiii says:

    Law & Order (original) has been passing on a regular basis since 1995, when they hired Benjamin Bratt to report to S. Epatha Merkerson’s character.

  54. Momsomniac says:

    Okay – Being Human passes neither, but now that Annie can talk to other dead people and has super powers, I have hopes for Season 2, assuming there is one…

  55. Savagewoman says:

    Crossing Jordan had two different African American recurring characters, Trey and Sidney, who conversed with Dr. Bug (who’s Indian) numerous times.

  56. Amarlj says:

    Great post. In the category non-SF, I am wondering if you have checked out that show HawthoRNe, starring Jada Pinkett-Smith. While I am fully surprised that it has been renewed for a second season, mostly because it is fairly representative of racial minorities, I am also thrilled. If it were a better show, I’d be doubly thrilled. I would also be interested in your analysis of it if you have had a chance to see it.

    Ps. I love BSG. A lot. And True Blood, too.

  57. lifeonqueen says:

    What about the Sarah Connor Chronicles? I recall at least one scene between Ellison (Richard T. Jones of the very fine voice) and his wife and another with his pastor. There was also a scene between Ellison and his FBI SAC – although that conversation should probbaly be discounted on the grounds that they’re discussing Ellison’s response to a white guy going crazy and shooting up an FBI HRT team (naturally, the white guy is actually a terminator). There’s also a number of scenes in a second season episode between Jesse Flores and her commanding officer, Queeg. But he’s also a terminator (a good one this time). Again though, at least some of those conversations are about John Connor, White Boy Extrodinaire – one way or the other, most of the conversations on the show were, though, which makes it a tough case to hold up as an example of Bechdel or Johnson-friendly writing.

    Regarding Veronica Mars, I would give VM a waiver on Bechdel in Season One because I found it an extremely effective way of highlighting Veronica’s isolation and loss (although you can find Bechdel-friendly Mac/Veronica interchanges even in S1).

    1. softestbullet says:

      Eh, SCC technically passes, but not meaningfully. The Bechdel test was created for movies, which are short enough that one conversation is significant, but TV shows? I think they should be held to a higher standard.

    2. Genevieve says:

      Yeah, the first season of Veronica Mars passes the traditional Bechdel Test in Mac’s first episode–the first conversation Mac and Veronica have is about Mac’s crappy car.

      (Oy, I’m a nerd.)

      The new test is cool, I’ll have to think about it when I’m reading/watching TV and movies.

  58. Logan Thrace says:

    If any of the Treks did, it would have been DS9. They had a black captain, his son, two love interests, and the doctor was a POC too. While I can’t remember which episodes it happened, it probably happened a few times over the years.

    1. softestbullet says:

      Yeah, DS9! In one of the very first episodes there’s this amazing scene where Sisko, Keiko, and Jake are in a room, discussing Keiko’s idea of a school, and talking about what it would mean for Jake and Molly. All people of color.

      It was an amazing thing to see, after TNG.

  59. draconismoi says:

    The Middleman passes both – and the leading lady even mentioned Bechdel in interviews about the show,

    Dark Angel passes both too.

    And Dexter – though it’s a close shave on the actual Bechdel test.

    Eureka…..maybe. There are 3 main characters of color who regularly interact during the Disaster of the Week, but I am not sure if talking about how to fix a problem almost always caused by a moronic/evil white person really counts.

    Dead Like Me fails the POC!Bechdel, as does the Sarah Connor Chronicles. And this makes me sad…..

    1. Emma says:

      Not only does the Middleman pass, it passes every week — Noser and Wendy always have at least one conversation, usually about themselves. ♥

    2. diana says:

      Eureka also has the romance between Kim and Henry, which counts, as well as some of the scenes in Season One with Allison and her son. Plus I’m almost sure there are some Allison and Jo scenes as well.

  60. SunlessNick says:

    So do we call it the Johnson Test?

    Lost passes it; I’m not certain about Fringe, but I don’t think so (though I think that’s a “yet”). Deep Space Nine did. Alias and Babylon 5 scraped through.

    1. SunlessNick says:

      Ok, I missed a complete first page of comments. I’m rubbish.

  61. meerkat says:

    Star Trek Deep Space Nine! It is by far the best Star Trek in terms of not soaking quite so much in white privilege. Because the original Star Trek was groundbreaking at the time, but can be painful to watch today, TNG was better in a lot of ways but still really clueless in a lot of ways (although I think it would probably pass the POC Bechdel in at least a couple episodes–I’m thinking of the one where Geordi had a romantic plot with a POC character, but she was only in the one episode–and more depending on whether you count Klingons as POC), DS9 was awesome, and then Voyager was weirdly token-y (and perhaps took more steps backward than forward). Actually, I’m certain Voyager would pass the POC Bechdel too, because they had a pretty low percentage of white people in the main cast.

    1. claire says:

      huh? why was voyager weirdly token-y? there were whole episodes about b’elanna’s relationship with chakotay, and b’elanna, chakotay, harry, and tuvok all had very lively relationships with one another, not to mention frequent conversations about engineering and how the ship was doing.

  62. jenny says:

    Greek has Rebecca, Calvin and Ashleigh who between the three, pass!

  63. Cinnamon Girl says:

    I’m struggling to think of anything in that genre. My scifi/fantasy knowledge is woeful at best. I’m a bit sad to find that my favourites don’t pass. :-(

    Alternatively, may I offer up the Australian movie 10 Canoes? I’m not sure how well known it is outside this country. It would fail the original Bechdel test, but would pass the PoC one.

    I think it was the first movie made entirely in an Indigenous Australian language too.

  64. Dr. Psycho says:

    In comic books, there is the Claremont Test, in which a writer asks, “Is there any reason this character cannot be a woman?”

    In Star Trek TOS, I can think of a couple of episodes which could sort-of pass the test: Uhura flirting with Mirror-Universe Sulu and Uhura speaking briefly with an alien apparition in the form of her lost love, but since they were speaking Swahili, I can’t swear to what they were talking about.

  65. sarah says:

    what about Lost?

    1. phantomspacecop says:

      Ana Lucia + Mr. Eko. (I’m lumping the Hispanic community in here…otherwise, I’ve got nothin’. :P I’m a POC (African American) and a lot of my TV hero/ines are Latino/a…)
      Michael + Walt.

      Wow. This question is a stumper.

      Oh! Be’lanna + Mr. Tuvok on Star Trek Voyager.

      Max + Original Cindy on Dark Angel. (SOMEtimes they weren’t gossiping about their white lovers/co-workers…)

      Betty + Wilhelmina on Ugly Betty.

      …*is out*

  66. Tamsin says:

    Doctor Who Season Three (the one with Martha) – I’m pretty sure there are some conversations between Martha and members of her family… (I’ve only seen a few episodes and it was a while ago).
    Also, The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, which is a YA SciFi/fantasy novel set in a post-apocalyptic sub-Saharan Africa and which I highly recommend.
    And some of the books in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series do too, with Kit, Carmela and their parents, who are Latin@, and Darryl, who is African-American.

  67. elissaF says:

    > No Joss Whedon show passes (ha!).

    Hmm… Zoe never talked to Shepherd Brook about anything other than Malcolm? I thought they discussed the ship and the war in some detail.

  68. J. Andrews says:

    Tons of comments on this post! Did anyone mention Defying Gravity? I’m not sure if it passes or not, but it has the potential to at any rate.

  69. yolio says:

    Bones. The characters Cam and Angela work closely and spend lots of time talking about solving cases.

  70. Aoede says:

    Heroes? I only watched s1 and that was a long while back, but there’s Hiro and Ando (very much), Hiro and his dad, DL and Micah, Mohinder and his friend at the university, Mohinder and the dream kid, and probably a pile that I can’t remember due to time.

    1. Aoede says:

      Oh, I see, someone brought it up on the other page. I /was/ wondering why no one had mentioned it >.>

  71. Duncan says:

    Technically, what is called here “the Bechdel test” was credited by Bechdel to her friend Liz Warren. I guess it’s hopeless now to try to straighten that out; Bechdel is now pretty famous, and everyone associates it with her. Still, those who care about the people who don’t get credit for their ideas and work because they’re less visible, or the ‘wrong’ sex, or the ‘wrong’ color… well, you get the idea … should at least know that the Bechdel test is Liz Warren’s Rule.

    But there’s something more. Recently I was reading the new edition of Samuel Delany’s The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, his essays in science-fiction criticism. It includes his contribution to a forum on women in science fiction from the 1970s, when he described how he’d come to grapple in his own work with the problem of creating and sustaining non-stereotypical female characters. What he (in collaboration with his then-wife, the poet Marilyn Hacker) came up with was essentially Liz Warren’s Rule. I don’t know anything about Warren, if she had connections to SF fandom, but it could be that she had been exposed directly or indirectly to the Delany-Hacker Canon. Or maybe it’s just that great minds think alike. That Delany’s a POC himself just brings this full circle.

  72. Iain Coleman says:

    Torchwood: The most recent series, “Children of Earth” features an American general and a British UNIT liaison officer, both black, who work together to negotiate with the aliens. The previous series, series 2, featured Martha Jones and Toshiko Sato working together in several episodes. My memories of series 1 are hazy, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t significant interaction between Tosh and Suzi Costello, and certainly there was important drama between Suzi and her father.

    Doctor Who: Regular characters Mickey Smith and Martha Jones have significant interactions with members of their families, and also interact with various non-white characters (e.g. Cheen, who kidnaps Martha in “Gridlock”, or Dr Rajesh Singh, whose laboratory Mickey infiltrates in “Army of Ghosts”). Also, while this is outwith the scope of the test, it is worth noting that Doctor Who takes pains to have a racially diverse population in its historically-based stories.

  73. Bwrites says:

    Oh, I thought of another one! The Discovery Kids show Flight 29 Down has two POC characters who talk about all sorts of things. (It’s sort of a LOST ripoff with less supernatural happenings.)

  74. Raksha says:

    Delurking to make a note about BSG. You’re right that it would pass for Dee and Gaeta alone, but it actually committed a lot more screen time to other POCs. Helo and Sharon had tons of screen time! Tahmoh Penikett is of First Nations descent and Grace Park is of Korean descent. Plus you had Edward James Olmos, who had plenty of conversations with Helo, Sharon, Dee and even Kat that had nothing to do with white people. BSG was a real breath of fresh air as far as race went, compared to TV in general, which is deeply troubling as far as race issues go.

    I mean, technically, ‘Stargate: Atlantis’ passes this test, as Ronan, Teyla, Ford and Bates have had conversations with eachother not about other white characters, but I would not in any way hold up SGA as a positive example as far as race goes.

  75. Alison says:

    The Big Bang Theory passes; Raj converses with his parents about an Indian girl they want him to date/marry. Of course, the scene is extremely stereotyped, which is a shame. And as of Season One, which is as much as I’ve watched, it fails the original Bechdel Test spectacularly.

  76. MsFeasance says:

    There have been several times during the 20-year run of Law and Order when it’s passed this test. Both Detectives Reynaldo Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) and Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) have had conversations with Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) re: solving cases with victims of all races. Also, on the Special Victims Unit variety, there are multiple conversations among Medical Examiner Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie), Det. Fin Tutuola (Ice-T), and Psychiatrist Dr. George Huang (B.D. Wong) during the course of solving cases.

    The CSI franchise, on the other hand, has a poor record when it comes to diversity. CSI: Miami has always had more than one POC character at a time–Medical Examiners Dr. Alex Woods (Khandi Alexander) and Dr. Tara Price (Megalyn Echiunwoke) regularly had scenes with CSI Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez) and occasionally in earlier seasons with Det. Yelina Salas. CSI: NY only had 2 regular POCs for one season, the first: Det. Aiden Burn (Vanessa Ferlito), and Dr. Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper). CSI Original Flavor, however, has never had more than one POC character at a time: CSI Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) left the series before the arrival of Dr. Ray Langston (Lawrence Fishburne).

    24has also had multiple scenes of POC’s in family life–Pres. Palmer and his wife, brother, and children, but it has problematic presentations of Arab-Americans.

  77. Violet says:

    Doctor Who only barely passes because Martha talks to her family–about the strain of her father’s new white girlfriend. Martha and Mickey do not meet until the end of the Fourth season; they don’t flirt on camera, they don’t chat. (Although Freema and Noel seemed good friends off camera) In the New York episode, Solomon only talks to Martha to reprimand her because she says she comes to help and has nothing but good intentions. An older man of color puts the young black woman in her place: what else is new? He doesn’t even take her to Harlem. As to the Shakespeare Code; Martha is made to speak of her skin color as a negative and a potential problem (As opposed to the attitudes of the people and the laws of the time being the problem): “I’m not exactly white”. Then to add to the slight, the Doctor gives some her some, arrogant PC response about walking around like him: a white male walking around male dominated society!. I wanted to slap someone. Even the poem supposedly dedicated to her is a slight insult, as it is dedicated to “A Fair Young Man” and every one who has read Shakespeare knows it. With one scene the BBC and Doctor Who denies Queen Elizabeth’s and England’s involvement in the slave trade. In 1599 the North American continent USA was an English colony, and the slaves in colonies were captured and sold in ways that even shocked the Queen (until she saw the money from the slave trade). In 1599 Queen Elzabeth wrote a SECOND letter to the mayor of London complaining that there were too many black people in Londonl, futher more there are papers to show that she had engaged a Dutch trader to round up black people and sell them to Spain and Portugal as slaves to fill her wartime depleted coffers. But the Doctor tells Martha that the London of 1599 is like the London of Martha’s time. Really? Futhermore, Martha’s tight clothing, as Shakespeare compliments her could have gotten her put in stocks, but the real point is, when in the past Rose and Donna got to dress up. All Martha gets in a change from her tank top is a maid’s uniform. Although Rose and Donna get to meet many famous white notables of England’s past, we have to assume from the show, that other than other servants there was no person of color of note in England’s past for Martha to associate with. Poor Rosita in the Other Doctor is a prostitute– at a time when Queen Victoria’s African Ward was much in the news, and England was entertaining and courting many black, female abolitionist from America.
    Then on the other hand, how many people of color are involved in writing and producing Doctor Who. We’re not going to see these kind of stories until we write them.

  78. Violet says:

    Star Trek Deep Space Nine more than passes; it excels. Benjamin talks to his son, his ex-wife and his love interest are both women of color. In the first Star Trek Uhura is almost seduced by a shape shifting alien because he shapes shifts into a sexy man of color who speaks to her in Swahili.

  79. Anita says:

    I just recently learned about the Bechdel test and I’m so happy to see you’ve adapted it for people of colour! Scary how many movies (and tv shows) don’t pass either test. I linked to this post from my videoblog about the Bechdel Test –…omen-in-movies/

  80. Nora says:

    Late to the game (found this on the Google), but Charisma Carpenter is Hispanic (though I believe Cordelia is white; Gunn states as much at some point), and she has plenty of conversations with Gunn on Angel.

  81. Being Human fan says:

    Isn’t Aiden Turner POC? I’d have thought Being Human passed quite easily.

  82. Being Human fan says:

    Oooh, and Dexter totally passes! That’s a great show, actually. The Spanish population of Miami is really well represented, Angel and LaGuerta are Spanish main characters and Doakes and Masouka are also POC main characters, and they have conversations about all kinds of things.

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