Hopefully you’ve all heard of the Bechdel test. For years it’s stood as shorthand for indicating that a movie does a decent job in representing both women and female relationships. If one said that a movie passed the Bechdel test, it meant that that movie: 1) had two named female characters who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man.
But now, in the wake of Pacific Rim‘s enormous online success, there have been calls for a Pacific Rim-inspired feminist test to join the Bechdel test. The Mako Mori test, as defined by Tumblr user chaila, states:
The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story. I think this is about as indicative of “feminism” (that is, minimally indicative, a pretty low bar) as the Bechdel test. It is a pretty basic test for the representation of women, as is the Bechdel test. It does not make a movie automatically feminist.
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I like the Mako Mori test as a way of acknowledging that there was at least one well-written female character in a movie, and it could in the future work as a second cousin to the Bechdel test by acknowledging that movies which don’t pass Bechdel nevertheless do have one female character who isn’t actively cringe-worthy. The Avengers, with Natasha Romanoff, is a good example of this. Actually, The Avengers had both Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury’s second-in-command, Maria Hill, as well as the inimitable Pepper Potts, but none of these characters talked to each other during the movie. Star Trek (2009) has Nyota Uhura, who’s a BAMF to be sure, but she’s the only female character in that movie by a long shot. I can’t remember if her green-skinned roommate was named in the movie, although she is named as Gaila in the credits. But, even if Gaila had been named in the movie, she and Uhura were only talking to each other while Uhura was undressing and Kirk was creeping on Uhura from underneath Gaila’s bed, so I wouldn’t really take theirs as a scintillating example of a female relationship. (That’s where the Bechdel test is inherently flawed: just any conversation between two women doesn’t automatically make the whole movie a paradigm of feminist success. But that’s a post for another time.)
On the other hand, the Mako Mori test seems to me like we’re setting the bar too low. Why couldn’t Pacific Rim have passed the Bechdel test? Okay, so we knuckle under and agree that Raleigh and Yancy had to be straight white guys as the protagonists of a Hollywood film, but why couldn’t Saika’s favorite nerd pair, Hermann and Newt, have been bickering female scientists? Why couldn’t Herc and Chuck Hansen have been a mother-daughter pilot team? Either scenario would have swept Pacific Rim into the annals of passing-Bechdel-test history and wouldn’t have changed the plot in the slightest, unless one thinks women can’t do science or fight kaiju. Similarly, The Avengers could have had more than one female Avenger (I mean, She-Hulk and the Wasp actually exist in comics) and literally anyone on the bridge of the Enterprise (Sulu, Chekov, Spock, anyone) could have been female. (It’s possible that Spock was actually female in Roddenberry’s first drafts. Make of that what you will.)
So, I personally think the Mako Mori test should exist as a sort of understudy to the Bechdel test, but what do you all think of it? Let me know in the comments.