LGBTQ+ Representation matters. But good representation matters more.
Most of the time though, the kind of LGBTQ+ representation we see in media doesn’t really help with this. It may get the word out, sure, but a lot of it consciously or unconsciously creates wholly the wrong kind of image or impression. I will point you at the Bury Your Gays tv trope for more info on that. Future posts about that will undoubtedly come. (Just as soon as I get over the deaths of Tara, Yanto, Gareth, Jesus and all the others)
So, in a vague attempt to copy the Bechdel Test for my own nefarious purposes, I have created:
The Boondock Test
The work of fiction features an out LGBTQ+ character.
This character’s sexuality/gender is at no point the source of ridicule or the butt of a joke.
This character’s sexuality/gender has no effect on the main narrative.
In other words: an LGBTQ+ person just exists. No hassle. Just there. Being awesome.
(Note: I definitely do not mean “Invisibly Queer”. Attention may be drawn, references may be made.)
I’ve called this the Boondock test because the first movie where I took notice of Incidental Gay Man (™) was The Boondock Saints (1999), in the shape of Willem Dafoe’s character Paul Smecker.
Notes & Clarifications
Some criticism has come up, saying that Rule 3 of the Boondock Test almost automatically excludes media with an LGBTQ+ protagonist/antagonist, or media which addresses LGBTQ+ issues. This is correct, and deliberate. The purpose of this test is to draw attention to the way LGBTQ+ characters are portrayed in large, wide appeal, broadly released media.
The Boondock Test applies to the work of fiction as a whole, characters don’t pass or fail.
Rule 1: “an out LGBTQ+ character” means a character who is out to the audience and at least one other character, not necessarily to everyone else in their universe; closeted LGBTQ+ characters fail this rule.
Rule 2: “the source of ridicule or the butt of a joke” means ridicule by the general narrative. Ridicule or jokes by another character do not fail this rule, so long as Rule 3 doesn’t come into effect.
- The Boat That Rocked – Felicity
- The Boondock Saints – Paul Smecker
- Con Air: Ramon Martinez
- How to Train your Dragon 2 – Gobber
- Life of Brian – Loretta
- Moulin Rouge – Audrey
- Star Trek Beyond – Hikaru Sulu; Ben