Schaefer Test

Lately, whenever a new film premieres, people often apply something known as The Bechdel Test: a simple way to determine how a movie includes and treats its female characters. It’s simple: 1) Does the movie include two female characters? 2) Do the female characters talk to each other? 3) And if so, do they talk to each other about something other than a man? Surprisingly few films pass this test, and it’s been an excellent conversation-starter about female representation in cinema.

But for me, the test doesn’t go far enough. I want to make sure the movies I’m watching depict a diverse cast with multi-dimensional characters who are not only talking to each other about something other than a man, but who are defying societal expectations, teaching us about our humanity, and ultimately, revolutionizing not only film but culture itself. I’m tired of the same old stories about white men with super powers. Give me something different. Give me something fresh. Give me something that will BLOW. MY. MIND.

That’s why, going forward, I refuse to watch any film that does not pass my newly developed Schaefer Test. The Schaefer Test is a handy guide to figuring out if a movie is both socially woke and a cinema classic.

Does the film have four or more major female characters?

I know four sounds like a lot, but it’s time to raise the standard. The only female characters in The Revenant were a dead woman and a bear! Ocean’s Eleven starred ELEVEN men. Fun fact: Julia Roberts wasn’t even one of the “eleven!” If your movie doesn’t have four or more significant female characters, you can count me out.

Is the protagonist a woman of color?

It’s very easy for white feminists to forget to include women of color when discussing the importance of diversity in film. Admittedly, I am a white feminist myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t better myself by making sure I’m supporting films that give voice to people that don’t look like me. So, not only must the film include four or more major female characters, but the main character must also be non-white. Otherwise, I’m not watching.

Do the female characters unite to fight against the white patriarchy?

Ok, I know, you’re probably starting to think this is getting a little strict. Why must the female characters fight the patriarchy? That seems a little limiting to the plot, doesn’t it? Well if you think “breaking the chains of thousands of years of oppression” is limiting, then maybe you need to reexamine your priorities.

Does the female ensemble cast use the power of song and dance to make change?

Look, I’m no fool. I realize that the type of movie I’m describing would confuse and maybe even scare a lot of men out there. I’m not advocating for a Hollywood that forgets the needs and tastes of our wonderful men. I know that if we start pushing out tons of films that don’t cater to the male population, the very fabric of our society might be torn apart. So, it’s important to make sure we’re not turning the male audience off.

If a movie isn’t filled with the white male faces and explosions they are used to, why not dress up our lady films with some good old-fashioned fun? Revolution doesn’t have to be boring! As we all know, music is the language of change. Get a bunch of people tapping their feet in the movie theatre, and you’ve won their hearts and minds! Especially if you can take some of our culture’s most classic hits and give them a fun twist. So, if the film doesn’t have a bunch of women singing and dancing to our country’s favorite music, I will boycott it. It still needs to be accessible.

Is Whoopi Goldberg in the film?

Really, I am not asking for much here. Is it so hard to cast Whoopi Goldberg in your movie? Did you even try to reach out to her reps to see if she’d be interested? Well, if you didn’t, then you’re not trying hard enough and you don’t care about diversity. No Whoopi, no watchi.

Does Whoopi Goldberg play a nun?

If Whoopi isn’t playing a nun, you are wasting our time. What the fuck are you even thinking?

Does Whoopi Goldberg teach a teen Lauryn Hill the power of following your dreams?

I’m so sick of Hollywood pretending they care about this stuff when in reality, the proof is in the pudding. Sure, you cast a bunch of women. You made the main character a woman of color. You made sure these women joined forces to fight the man. You have them singing and dancing to get people excited about the whole thing. You even got Whoopi Goldberg to sing and dance! Wow!

So, after all that, why why why why would you not also cast a young talent who will use this platform to go on to create some of our generation’s greatest music? Why!!? You thought you could just check off the boxes and pat yourself on the back for being a good “ally.” You don’t get a cookie. Cast a young Lauryn Hill, or I AM OUT.

Does the film include a subversive yet catchy hip hop performance of “Joyful Joyful I Adore Thee” meant to subtly upend the authority of the Catholic Church?


So, there you have it. The Schaefer Test. Please share this with everyone you know. If we all start following this test, we can send Hollywood a very strong message that we are the audience and we know what we want!

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