On the “DuVernay” Test

Salon.com has an article featuring the “DuVernay” test — a quick test analogous to the “Bechdel” test which analyzes female characters on screen. For those who might be concerned, there are six questions to answer regarding a character of color to help you determine if their on-screen presence is a fair representation. If you’re anywhere near this blog, it won’t surprise you that most movies featuring any characters of color will fail the “DuVernay” test.

I think they could add one more question to this one, though: Is the audience able to fully identify with the character? That is, whether or not race is a factor, is the character so well defined that the viewer can put him/herself in their shoes, fight alongside them, immerse themselves in their struggle, no matter how alien that struggle is to the viewer?

Because what we’re really talking about here is a problem of identity, which I think is more important than mere representation. Well-drawn main characters are really just placeholders for the viewers; we’re meant to see through their eyes. And if no black people are on screen and being represented fairly, as fully realized characters, it means that no one in Hollywood can possibly imagine a world where people can see through our eyes.

Welcome to the SS Blog

Welcome to the Secret Sociologist blog — a space I created to write about the world and “think out loud.” Blog posts and views I express are not definitive; I’m a work in progress. I don’t have a formal degree in sociology but I have a longtime interest in the topic; in my real life I’m a former educator turned photographer. Civilized discourse is heartily welcomed.