The Shukla Test

Unlike most entries in the Antiracist Book Club so far, this isn’t a post about my ideas. This is about the Shukla Test.

I found this article by Nikesh Shukla on the great site Media Diversified (“Tackling the Lack of Diversity in the UK Media and the Ubiquity of Whiteness”), which I follow on Twitter. Being a devotee of the Bechdel Test, I had already thought of my own version of the Shukla Test, but TV and fiction writer Nikesh Shukla deserves the credit and signal boost. Here’s the pith of his post, all of which is indispensable reading.

But if a character like me was inserted into a film, that would be tokenistic. Probably because everyone presupposes everyone in television, books or film is white unless they have to do something brown. I’ve had projects featuring brown people doing mundane things like fighting, fucking, loving, losing etc turned down because ‘the characters aren’t relatable’ or ‘they don’t feel authentically Asian’, while at the same time seeing the same things being made featuring Caucasians. If that’s the case, then screw it, I’m all for tokenism.

I’ve been thinking about the Bechdel test for films where a film must have a) two or more main female characters who b) talk to each other about c) something other than men. It’s amazing to see that not many films pass this test. So, I’m initiating this now (unless it’s already been done…): The Shukla Test, for books, films and television where a) two main characters who are people who of colour b) talk to each other without c) mentioning their race.

I can’t think of a single film where this has happened. Except in Bollywood.

Obviously, this is also a crucial test for fiction by white people. I’ve used it on my own, and I don’t always pass. To work . . .

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