In an era where the call for gender equality and diverse representation in media is louder than ever, various metrics have been developed to assess how well films and TV shows are doing in this regard. One such groundbreaking metric is the Mako Mori Test. Named after the compelling character Mako Mori from Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 blockbuster film “Pacific Rim,” this test serves as a set of criteria designed to evaluate the representation of female characters in films, television series, and other narrative mediums.
What is the Mako Mori Test?
The Mako Mori Test is a gender-centric lens through which one can scrutinize the depth and relevance of female characters in a story. Unlike other tests that focus solely on the quantity of female interactions or dialogues, the Mako Mori Test digs deeper. It asks three fundamental questions:
- Does the film or TV show have at least one female character?
- Does this character have an independent plot arc?
- Is her story independent of supporting a male character’s narrative?
By answering these questions, the test aims to highlight works that may not pass other gender representation tests but still offer a meaningful story arc for their female characters.
The Origins: Mako Mori in “Pacific Rim”
The character of Mako Mori, portrayed by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, serves as the inspiration for this test. In “Pacific Rim,” Mako Mori is a nuanced, strong, and independent character. She’s not just a sidekick or a love interest; she has her own dreams, complexities, and an arc that is integral to the storyline. Her character struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, leading to the formulation of the Mako Mori Test by a Tumblr user named Chaila. The test aims to capture the essence of what made Mako Mori a standout character—her independence and the depth of her narrative.
What is the Mako Mori Test? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Its Criteria and Significance
In the realm of media studies and gender representation, various tests and metrics have been developed to evaluate the portrayal of female characters. Among these, the Mako Mori Test has emerged as a noteworthy tool, offering a unique perspective on female representation. In this section, we’ll delve into the definition of the Mako Mori Test, its criteria, and how it compares to the well-known Bechdel Test.
Definition of the Mako Mori Test
A modern evaluation tool designed to assess the depth and independence of female characters in narrative media, be it films, TV shows, or even books. Unlike other gender representation tests that may focus on the quantity of female characters or their dialogues, the Mako Mori Test is more concerned with the quality of the narrative arc provided to them.
Criteria of the Mako Mori Test
The test comprises three essential criteria that a film or TV show must meet:
- Presence of Female Character: The first and most basic criterion is the presence of at least one female character in the narrative.
- Independent Plot Arc: The female character must have her own independent plot arc. This means she should have goals, challenges, and development that are her own and not merely an extension of another character’s storyline.
- Not a Support to Male Narrative: The third criterion stipulates that the female character’s arc should not exist solely to support a male character’s plot. She should be more than just a device to propel the male protagonist’s story forward.
By meeting these criteria, a film or TV show can be said to pass the Mako Mori Test, indicating a more nuanced and independent representation of its female characters.
Comparison with the Bechdel Test
While the Mako Mori Test is gaining traction, the Bechdel Test has long been the standard for evaluating gender representation in media. Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, this test also has its own set of criteria:
- The film must have at least two female characters.
- These characters must talk to each other.
- Their conversation must be about something other than a man.
Why the Mako Mori Test?
It was originally proposed as an alternative to the Bechdel Test for a compelling reason: not all films that fail the Bechdel Test are necessarily poor in their portrayal of female characters. A case in point is “Pacific Rim,” the film that inspired the Mako Mori Test. While it does not pass the Bechdel Test, it features a strong, independent female character in Mako Mori, who has her own narrative arc and does not exist merely to support the male characters.
By offering a different lens through which to view female representation—one that focuses on the depth and independence of at least one female character—the Mako Mori Test provides a complementary perspective to the Bechdel Test.
Origins — From a Cinematic Icon to a Cultural Benchmark
Understanding the origins of the Mako Mori Test is crucial for grasping its significance in the broader landscape of gender representation and media studies. In this section, we’ll explore the character of Mako Mori in the “Pacific Rim” franchise and how her portrayal led to the creation of this influential test.
The Character of Mako Mori—A Paradigm of Strength and Complexity
Mako Mori, portrayed by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, is a central character in Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” and its sequel. She is a Jaeger pilot fighting against monstrous sea creatures known as Kaiju. But what sets Mako apart is not just her combat skills; it’s the depth and complexity of her character.
- Strong: Mako is mentally and emotionally resilient. She has her own ambitions, faces her own challenges, and overcomes them, making her a strong character in every sense of the word.
- Non-Sexualized: Unlike many female characters in action movies, Mako is not sexualized. She is portrayed in a manner that respects her as a competent, professional individual.
- Person of Color: As a Japanese woman, Mako adds a layer of racial diversity to the film, making her a rare example of a strong, non-sexualized female character of color in mainstream Hollywood.
Mako Mori’s character breaks several stereotypes, offering a more nuanced and respectful portrayal of women in action films. Her character has been celebrated for these very reasons, making her a cultural icon in discussions about gender and racial representation in media.
Creation — The Birth of an Alternative Metric
The Mako Mori Test was proposed by a Tumblr user named Chaila, who was inspired by the character’s portrayal in “Pacific Rim.” The test was born out of a need for an alternative to the existing Bechdel Test, which, although groundbreaking, has its limitations.
The Need for an Alternative
While the Bechdel Test focuses on the interaction between female characters, it often overlooks films that may have strong, independent female leads but do not meet its specific criteria. This is where the Mako Mori Test comes in. It provides a different angle for evaluating gender representation by focusing on the quality of the narrative arc given to female characters, even if they are the only significant female character in the story.
By offering this alternative, the Mako Mori Test fills a gap in the evaluation metrics for female representation, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of how women are portrayed in narrative media.
Significance and Impact — A New Frontier in Feminism and Cultural Sensitivity
The Mako Mori Test is more than just a set of criteria; it’s a cultural milestone that has significantly impacted discussions about feminism, representation, and diversity in media. In this section, we’ll delve into the test’s contributions to feminist discourse and its role in promoting cultural sensitivity.
Feminism and Representation—Expanding the Narrative
The Mako Mori Test has become an essential tool in the feminist toolkit for evaluating media representation. While the Bechdel Test has been a foundational metric, it’s not without its limitations. This is where the Mako Mori Test fills a crucial gap.
A Different Angle on Feminism
The Mako Mori Test offers a different perspective on feminist representation by focusing on the depth and independence of female characters. It allows for a more nuanced evaluation that takes into account the quality of a female character’s narrative arc, rather than just her interactions with other female characters.
Beyond the Bechdel Test
One of the most significant contributions of the Mako Mori Test is its role in evaluating films that may not pass the Bechdel Test but still feature strong, independent female characters. By doing so, it broadens the scope of feminist media studies, allowing for a more comprehensive analysis that includes films and TV shows that might have been overlooked by the Bechdel Test.
Cultural Sensitivity—A Step Towards Inclusive Representation
The Mako Mori Test also plays a vital role in promoting cultural sensitivity in media representation, particularly for women of color and characters from non-Western cultures.
Mako Mori—A Well-Written Japanese Character
Mako Mori serves as a prime example of a well-written Japanese character who is not defined solely by her ethnicity. She is a complex individual with her own dreams, challenges, and narrative arc. Her character serves as a benchmark for how women of color and those from non-Western cultures should be represented in media.
Broadening the Conversation
By providing a metric that values the representation of women of color and those from diverse cultural backgrounds, the test encourages a more inclusive approach to storytelling. It pushes the industry towards creating more nuanced, respectful, and authentic characters, thereby enriching the media landscape.
Criticisms and Limitations of the Mako Mori Test—A Balanced Perspective
While the test has been lauded for its contributions to feminist discourse and cultural sensitivity, it’s essential to examine its criticisms and limitations for a balanced understanding. In this section, we’ll discuss why the test isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and explore the ongoing debate between the Bechdel Test.
Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution—The Case of “Pacific Rim: Uprising”
It has faced criticism for not being comprehensive enough in evaluating the representation of female characters in media. One of the most cited examples is the sequel to “Pacific Rim,” titled “Pacific Rim: Uprising.”
Mako Mori’s Diminished Role in the Sequel
In “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” Mako Mori’s character arc is notably less substantial compared to the original film. While she remains a strong character, her narrative arc is not as central to the story, raising questions about the test’s efficacy in evaluating sequels or series where character arcs can fluctuate.
The Mako Mori Test focuses on the presence of at least one strong, independent female character, but it doesn’t account for the overall representation of women in the narrative. This makes it less comprehensive as it can give a pass to films or shows where only one female character is well-developed while others are not.
The Bechdel Test vs. The Mako Mori Test—A Complementary Relationship?
There’s an ongoing debate in academic and media circles about whether the Mako Mori Test should replace or complement the Bechdel Test.
Merits and Limitations
Both tests have their own merits and limitations. The Bechdel Test is excellent for evaluating the presence and interaction of multiple female characters but may overlook narratives with strong, singular female leads. On the other hand, the Mako Mori Test is beneficial for assessing the depth and independence of at least one female character but may not provide a comprehensive view of gender representation.
A Complementary Approach
Given these considerations, many argue that the two tests should be used in tandem for a more holistic evaluation of female representation in media. Using both tests can provide a multi-faceted understanding, capturing both the quantity and quality of female characters in a narrative.
Case Studies—Putting the Mako Mori and Bechdel Tests to the Test
To truly understand the impact, significance, and limitations of the Mako Mori and Bechdel Tests, it’s crucial to see them in action. In this section, we’ll explore a few case studies of films and TV shows that pass one test but not the other, shedding light on what these instances reveal about the complexities of gender representation in media.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” – Passes the Bechdel Test but Not the Mako Mori Test
The 2015 action film “Mad Max: Fury Road” features multiple female characters who interact with each other about topics other than men, thereby passing the Bechdel Test. However, the film’s primary focus is on Max, making it challenging to argue that any female character has an independent arc that doesn’t serve to support his story, thus failing the Mako Mori Test.
What It Reveals
This example highlights that a film can have multiple strong female characters but still center its narrative around a male protagonist. It underscores the need for a multi-dimensional approach to evaluating gender representation.
“Gravity” – Passes the Mako Mori Test but Not the Bechdel Test
The 2013 science fiction thriller “Gravity” features Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, who has a well-developed, independent narrative arc. However, the film fails the Bechdel Test as it doesn’t feature another female character with whom she can interact on topics other than men.
What It Reveals
“Gravity” shows that a film can provide a strong, independent female character with a compelling narrative arc while still lacking in broader female representation. It emphasizes the importance of the Mako Mori Test in recognizing such nuanced portrayals.
“Black Panther” – Passes Both Tests
The 2018 superhero film “Black Panther” passes both the Bechdel and Mako Mori Tests, featuring strong female characters like Nakia and Shuri, who have their own independent arcs and also interact with each other about topics other than men.
What It Reveals
When a film passes both tests, it often indicates a more holistic approach to gender representation, showcasing both the depth and breadth of strong female characters.
By examining these case studies through the lens of the Mako Mori and Bechdel Tests, we gain valuable insights into the intricacies of gender representation in media. It becomes evident that using both tests in conjunction can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how female characters are portrayed.
A Valuable Addition to the Discourse on Gender Representation in Media
As we navigate the complex landscape of gender representation in films, TV shows, and other narrative media, the Mako Mori Test stands as a significant milestone. Born from the compelling character of Mako Mori in “Pacific Rim,” this test has carved out its own space in media studies and feminist discourse, offering a fresh lens through which to evaluate the depth and independence of female characters.
A Complement to Existing Metrics
While the Bechdel Test has long been the standard for assessing gender representation, the Mako Mori Test serves as a complementary tool that addresses some of the Bechdel Test’s limitations. By focusing on the quality of a female character’s narrative arc, the test allows for a more nuanced evaluation, especially for films and TV shows that may feature strong, independent female characters but do not meet the Bechdel Test’s criteria.
Broadening the Scope of Feminist Media Studies
The Mako Mori Test has expanded the scope of feminist media studies by introducing a new metric that values not just the presence but also the complexity of female characters. It has also contributed to the discourse on cultural sensitivity, emphasizing the need for diverse and respectful representation of women from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
A Valuable but Imperfect Tool
While the Mako Mori Test adds a valuable perspective to the conversation on gender representation, it’s important to acknowledge that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. As seen in the sequel “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” even a character as strong as Mako Mori can have a diminished narrative arc, highlighting the test’s limitations. Therefore, it’s most effective when used in conjunction with other metrics like the Bechdel Test for a more comprehensive analysis.