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TV Shows that Go Beyond the Bechdel Test

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We recently published a post on TV shows that pass the Bechdel test. But that’s just one test we can use to assess our television shows. It’s time we go beyond that.

Several years ago (remember 2017?) FiveThirtyEight examined movies that went beyond the Bechdel Test using a variety of criteria. We’ll take a look at some of these tests and suggest some current TV shows that make the grade. 

The Waithe Test

The Waithe Test, named after producer, writer, actor, and all around badass Lena Waithe. 

This test looks to see if:

  • There’s a Black woman in the work,
  • who’s in a position of power
  • and she’s in a healthy relationship

Here’s what we’ve found:

  • We could literally only find ONE show that passes, and even then just because of the most recent season: The latest season of Star Trek: Discovery. With Michael’s new role as Captain of Discovery and her relationship with Book, the show narrowly squeaks by. (Though her relationship with Book is, um, a little tense at the moment).
The Ko Test

The Ko Test, named after Dear White People actress and writer Naomi Ko.

This test looks to see if:

  • There’s a non-white, female-identifying person in the film,
  • who speaks in five or more scenes,
  • and speaks English

Here’s what we’ve found:

The Villalobos Test

The Villalobos Test, named after producer and writer Ligiah Villalobos.

This test looks to see if: 

  • The film has a Latina lead,
  • and the lead or another Latina character is shown as professional or college educated, 
  • and speaks in unaccented English, 
  • and is not sexualized

Here’s what we’ve found:

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: We love Amy Santiago! She’s geeky like us. 🤓
  • Euphoria: it’s as though Euphoria was built to address this test as the main character is Latina, speaks in unaccented English and she addresses sexuality and drug use… whew
  • One Day at a Time: The show’s Cuban family features a mix of generations, stories, laughs, and love
The Peirce Test

The Peirce Test, named after director Kimberly Peirce.

This test looks to see if: 

  • There’s a female character who is a protagonist or antagonist with her own story,
  • the female lead has dimension and exists authentically with needs and desires that she pursues through dramatic action,
  • and the audience can empathize with or understand the female lead’s desires and actions

Here’s what we’ve found:

The Villarreal test

The Villarreal Test, named after producer Lindsey Villarreal.

This test looks to see if:

  • The lead female character is NOT introduced as one of three common stereotypes in her first scene: as sexualized; as hardened, expressionless or soulless; or as a matriarch (tired, older or overworked)

But failing shows can redeem themselves if the lead female character is later shown to be three or more of the following:

  • Someone with a career where she is in a position of authority or power
  • A mother
  • Someone who’s reckless or makes bad decisions
  • Someone who is sexual or chooses a sexual identity of her own

Here’s what we’ve found:

I’m sure we’ve missed some, so please tell us what else we should add and if you have any tests beyond the Bechdel test that you’d like to see television shows pass!