In a 1985 comic strip for Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel inadvertently created the Bechdel Test, a tool used by feminists to critique media narratives. The rules are:
- The movie has at least two (named) women in it…
- …who talk to each other…
- ….about something other than men.
The test is NOT an indicator of a film’s overall quality (it is possible for a movie to past the test but still be sexist, or for a film to have empowering female characters who don’t talk to each other), and it was originally meant to highlight a lack of lesbian representation, but it does do a good job of highlighting a troubling trend in media.
Since then, there have been other tests. They include:
- The Mako Mori test: a) at least one female character b) who gets her own narrative arc c) that is not about supporting a man’s story (this is mostly used for women of color)
- The Furiosa test: the film makes the Internet angry for being ‘feminist’
- The Babs and Kara test: the female characters are distinguishable and recognizable even if they were wearing identical bathrobes and their hair was covered (a critique of ‘same face syndrome’)
- The Sexy Lamp test: if the woman can be replaced by a literal sex object, would the plot change at all
- Ellen Willis test: would the character’s role in the story be the same if their gender was reversed
- The Aila Test: a) is the character an Indigenous or Aboriginal main female character b) who does NOT fall in love with a white man c) who does NOT end up raped or murdered at any point in the story
You can read more about media tests HERE.
As an autistic person, I feel like there should be a similar test for autistic people. Representation for autistic people tends to be few and far between, and the most prominent examples tend to be stereotypical. So, I decided to create my own test: The Symmetra Test.
Here are my rules:
- Is there an autistic or autistic-coded main character
- Who ISN’T a white man
- Who ISN’T infantilized by the narrative or other characters
The test is named for the character of Symmetra of the game Overwatch, who is an autistic woman of color who is definitely seen, depicted, and treated as an adult.
If the autistic character in question is a child, they can behave like children, but it has to be appropriate for their age. So characters like Vanellope (who’s 9) from Wreck-It Ralph and Laura (who’s 11) from Logan, two characters I see as autistic-coded, would pass because they’re children but they’re not treated like literal infants or toddlers. Characters like Peridot would not pass because she’s at least a few hundred years old but is treated by both the crewniverse and the fandom as a baby.
The test is not a be-all, end-all indicator of quality autism representation and is not meant to discount white male autistic characters (as long as they’re not infantilized or rely heavily on stereotypes). This test is to bring attention to the fact that so few autistic or autistic coded characters are non male or non white, and fewer still are treated age appropriately.
If you’re autistic, let me know if you think there should be any amendments to this test, or if you can name any characters who would pass! I’d love to hear some feedback.
I hope this test can help bring attention to more autistic or autistic-coded characters of different genders and races, as well as help people when making any autistic characters of their own.