The Riz Test: Not All Representation Is Good Representation

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The Riz Test: Not All Representation Is Good Representation

Riz Ahmed at the 89th Academy Awards.

Riz Ahmed at the 89th Academy Awards.

Riz Ahmed at the 89th Academy Awards.

Riz Ahmed at the 89th Academy Awards.

Veeda Khan, Staff Writer

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Most film enthusiasts have heard about the Bechdel test, an assessment used to determine if the movie has good female representation. There are only three requirements to pass: there must be two named female characters, they must speak to each other, and they must talk to each other about something other than a man. Despite the test being created in 1985, film critics still use it today to gauge the diversity of movies. But women aren’t the only under represented group out there. Could you make a test like this for other minorities? Well, a group of films buffs has decided to try.

The Riz Test, named after Muslim rapper and actor Riz Ahmed, aims to measure how well Muslims are portrayed in movies and TV shows. The criteria is as follows:

If the film or TV Show stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character:

  1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator or Islamist terrorism?
  2. Presented as irrationally angry?
  3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
  4. Presented as a thread to a Western way of life?
  5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts? 

If the answer for any of the above is yes, then the film or television show has failed the test. The project is currently being crowd sourced, which allows anyone to submit a movie review or in depth analysis. The test was created to initiate conversation about the way Muslim people are portrayed in the media. Recently, there has been an increase in Muslim characters on screen, but this does not necessarily mean these portrayals are benefiting the community. Hollywood’s portrayal of Muslims tends to fall back onto stereotypes, perpetuating a negative image overall. Be it in Disney’s Aladdin or Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan, the overall image of Muslim people is one of heavy stereotype and standard norms. Not all representation is good representation.

Film and television are powerful mediums, capable of changing minds, so it is important that they don’t perpetuate problematic views. Like any problem, the first step to solving the issue of representation is recognizing it, and hopefully a solution will arise.

 

 

 

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