Mako Mori test
The Mako Mori test is a set of criteria pertaining to the representation of female characters within a film, television show or other work of fiction. The test originated online from the Tumblr user Chaila, inspired by the character of Mako Mori from the 2013 film Pacific Rim, and a discourse they had with another user Spider-Xan about the fact that though the film had good representation of women, it would not have passed the Bechdel test, an existing assessment of gender representation.
The requirements of the Mako Mori test are that a film or television show has at least one female character and that this character has an independent plot arc and that the character or her arc does not simply exist to support a male character's plot arc.
Feminism and gender theory
Gender portrayal in media and fiction, especially within the film has been discussed and problematized since the early days of the feminist movement. One of the first examples of this is Virginia Woolf's 1929 essay A Room of One's Own where she discusses how the world would be changed if Shakespeare had been female. Since Woolf's essay, many scholars have questioned not only the level of representation that women receive in media and film but also how women are represented within these modes. Many film and gender theories have been produced through these discussions, such as Laura Mulvey's Male Gaze, which suggests that all films are created within an inherently patriarchal system and that any vision within them has a male gaze; Judith Butler's Gender Performativity, which argues that all gender is a performance and constructed by society; and Queer Theory which is a field of critical theory which expands on gender theory and deals with the culturally constructed nature of the perception of homosexuality and gender normativity.
The Bechdel test
While these theories question gender representation in film, the Bechdel test, which is a close companion of the Mako Mori test, seeks to measure the gender representation within film and other fiction. The requirements of the Bechdel test are that:
- A film must have at least 2 female characters (in some cases it is stipulated that these characters must be named and credited),
- That these characters have an on-screen conversation with each other,
- Where they talk about something other than a man or a heterosexual relationship that they are in.
Through these requirements, the Bechdel test attempts to highlight films that fail to proportionately represent women. The Mako Mori test was created through discourse that questioned the Bechdel test's ability to successfully do this. Fans of the film questioned the validity of the Bechdel test as Pacific Rim does not pass that test but features a female supporting character whom they feel is a very good representation of a female character. This discussion happened in conjunction with criticism over the limitations of the Bechdel test. From discussion about this on Tumblr, the Mako Mori test was proposed as an alternative to the Bechdel test.
Other measures of gender representation
The Mako Mori test exists alongside a range of different principles and measures that attempt to highlight and explain elements of gender disparity within fictional works (including film which the Mako Mori test focuses on). While one of the prominent examples of this is the Bechdel test, other examples include:
- Damsel in Distress,
- Johanson analysis
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl,
- Mary Sue,
- Reverse Harem,
- Sexy Lamp test,
- Smurfette Principle and
This aim could also be extended to the theories of gender performativity and male gaze.
Mako Mori (character)
The character of Mako Mori is featured across the Pacific Rim franchise, appearing in the films Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim: Uprising, the graphic novel Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero, as well as the non-canon work Pacific Rim: The Official Novelisation, which is a novelisation of the movie. Mako Mori is a female, Japanese character, portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi, a highly acclaimed Japanese-American actor, for the majority of the films, with Mana Ashida portraying the character as a child and Megumi Hayashibara portraying the character's voice for the Japanese dub of the films. Her character is described as being 'tomboyish' as a child, showing significant interest in her father's work as a sword maker. Her character is a part of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps' J-Tech division, a military organisation within the film.
Her character is celebrated both by fans of the franchise and in academic circles as a successful representation of a strong and non-sexualised character who is both female and a person of colour. Notably, Pacific Rim balances her identities as both a person of colour and a woman extremely well. Megan Fowler highlighted the subtleties of her character, notably her lack of speaking. Fowler cites a review of the film that uses this as a point of criticism; however, she denies that it is a negative, stating that it only seeks to further subvert the common ideas of what is needed to construct a strong female character and thus widens the spectrum for a greater and more realistic depiction of strong females in film. The character is further celebrated in the journal article The Mako Mori Fan Club, again being heralded for being a successful female character who does not conform to the common genre traits of over-sexualisation, and the common fetishisation of Japanese characters in Western media.
It is through these traits that Mako Mori was recognised as a successful female character despite not passing the Bechdel test, ultimately leading to the construction of the Mako Mori test as an alternative.
The Mako Mori test is named after and based on the character of Mako Mori from the action/sci-fi film Pacific Rim. The character is credited with being an example of good female representation within a film of this genre. Though she is a supporting character, she is given an independent story arc that does not simply exist to support the male lead characters' arc(s), and her character avoids many of the sexist stereotypes that often accompany women in film (especially in this genre) of over-sexualisation and lack of agency. These attributes that Mako Mori is credited with lead the conceivers of the Mako Mori test to stress the importance of the substance of female characters and how they are written over the more quantitative requirements of the Bechdel test.
Pacific Rim Uprising and controversy
Despite its former film's character being the inspiration for the Mako Mori test, the sequel of Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim Uprising, has evoked controversy for the fact that it does not pass the test. The character of Mako Mori still exists within the film, though she is given less of a substantial story arc that is judged to exist simply in support of another male character's plot arc and therefore does not pass the test, and dies within the opening third of the movie. This shift in the franchise has been greatly criticised by fans of the movies as well as fans of the test itself.
While some fans of Pacific Rim claim that the movie is rooted in a feminist depiction of women, there exists an argument over the character of Mako Mori and whether she is truly a feminist character. It is argued, despite her feminist triumphs, that she is still a character who only exists in relation to other male characters. This criticism of her character is further connected with the Mako Mori test and the need for a supplement to the Bechdel test.
A significant number of Disney films pass the Mako Mori test, including such animated classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) directed by David Hand; Cinderella (1950) directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske; Alice in Wonderland (1951) directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske; and Sleeping Beauty (1959) directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark and Eric Larson. Some of these films have seen modern, live-action remakes, including the 2015 Cinderella, 2010 Alice in Wonderland (and 2016 sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass).
Despite the breadth of films that pass the Mako Mori test, there is significant controversy surrounding the representation of gender within Disney films. Many of the children's films are flagged as showing sexist representations of women and showing storylines that force women to rely on men. This controversy has been documented with reference to the Bechdel test and the fact that, similarly to the Mako Mori test, many Disney films pass the Bechdel test, though this does not necessarily relate to the film's success in providing equal gender representation. While this is beginning to change and Disney is beginning to show strong, independent female characters such as Elsa from their 2013 film Frozen, Merida from 2012 film Brave, or Moana from 2016 film Moana, many people still view Disney's representation of women and the characterisation of their princesses as problematic.
Disney's Cinderella 1950 animated film and 2015 live-action film are examples of films that pass both the Mako Mori test and the Bechdel test despite having questionable representations of women. Both films feature a range of female characters including the namesake Cinderella, the stepmother Lady Tremaine, the stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella Tremaine, and the Fairy Godmother. These characters all have independent plot arcs and do not exist to support a male character or a male character's plot arc. However these characters have been described as falling into the categories of 'passive heroine' or 'female villain' with the effect of this being linked to 'Disney [becoming] responsible for amplifying the already sexist stereotype of womanhood represented within [orally told fairy tales]' These issues may be extended to suggest that the film propagates ideas that 'passivity, victimisation, feminine charm, and physical beauty are the necessary precursors to marriage and fortune.'
Mulan, another animated Disney film, made in 1998, is one of the first Disney films to completely reject the 'princess' stereotype which is featured in so many Disney films. While Ariel, Belle and Pocahontas were all described as a new type of Disney heroine and as subverting the original stereotypes of Disney princesses, Mulan is seen as the first lead female Disney character to be represented as equal to the film's male characters and to not adhere to sexist social values. However, the film is criticized for masculinizing her character to achieve this goal as, for a large majority of the film, she is disguised as a man. The film's ending has also been criticized as, although Mulan has proven herself a capable warrior, at the end of the film she decides to return home and assume a role which aligns with the social expectation of her as a female. People have also extended this criticism to highlight that the film, which champions a female person of color, was created by a majority white male production team.
- "The Mako Mori Test: 'Pacific Rim' inspires a Bechdel Test alternative". The Daily Dot. 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "spider-xan: Also, I was thinking more about why..." Tumblr. 2014-11-03. Archived from the original on 2014-11-03. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
- "The Amazing Spider-Xan!". The Amazing Spider-Xan!. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- Team, The WIFTV (2014-01-28). "The Bechdel & Mako Mori Test". Women in Film and Television Vancouver Blog. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- "Bajirao Mastani-Mako Mori Test — Science Leadership Academy @ Center City". scienceleadership.org. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Woolf, Virginia. (2019). A Room of One's Own. Alma Books. ISBN 978-0-7145-4949-1. OCLC 1090988413.
- Mulvey, Laura (1991), "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", Feminisms, Macmillan Education UK, pp. 432–442, doi:10.1007/978-1-349-22098-4_25, ISBN 978-0-333-57936-7
- Meyerhoff, Miriam (2014-11-17), "Gender performativity", in Bolin, Anne; Whelehan, Patricia (eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, pp. 1–4, doi:10.1002/9781118896877.wbiehs178, ISBN 978-1-118-89687-7
- Bechdel, Alison, 1960-. Dykes to watch out for. Ithaca, New York. ISBN 0-932379-17-6. OCLC 14166122.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "September 2018". TAPPI Journal. 17 (9). 2018-10-01. doi:10.32964/tj17.09. ISSN 0734-1415.
- "In 2019, it's time to move beyond the Bechdel Test". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Can You Tell If a Movie's Sexist? The Mako Mori Test Can Help". bust.com. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- "An enduring trope: The damsel in distress". Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Johanson, MaryAnn (May 11, 2016). "Where Are the Women?". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
- Solomon, Claire T. (2017-03-01). "Anarcho-Feminist Melodrama and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl". CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. 19 (1). doi:10.7771/1481-4374.2896. ISSN 1481-4374.
- "What is a Mary Sue?". gosparkpress.com. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "A Guide to Reverse Harem: What is Reverse Harem?". C. L. Stone. 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Films That Totally Fail The Sexy Lamp Test". Ravishly | Media Company. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Pollitt, Katha (1991-04-07). "Hers; The Smurfette Principle". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "#FairnessFirst: Beyond tokenism, how more diversity in film = more money at the box office". www.bizcommunity.com. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Davis, Rebecca Willa (2012-01-06). "RINKO KIKUCHI IS NO WALLFLOWER". ELLE. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- "Tomokazu Sugita, Megumi Hayashibara, Tohru Furuya Cast in Pacific Rim Film's Dub". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Fowler, Megan. "A Person not a Pin-Up: Subverting the Sexualized Asian Action Heroine with Pacific Rim's Mako Mori" (PDF). The Phoenix Papers. 2.
- COKER, CAIT (2017), "The Mako Mori Fan Club", Dis-Orienting Planets, University Press of Mississippi, pp. 204–217, doi:10.2307/j.ctv5jxngg.18, ISBN 978-1-4968-1156-1
- Hanson, Ralph (2013-08-21). "The Mako Mori Test – An alternative to the Bechdel Test". Living in a Media World. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Wilson, Lena (2018-03-23). "Pacific Rim Inspired the "Mako Mori Test." Uprising Gives the Character a Far Less Inspiring Arc". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- The Editors. "Gender in Pacific Rim: The Mako Mori Problem – AEscifi". Retrieved 2019-05-31.
- Wohlwend, Karen E. (January 2009). "Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts Through Disney Princess Play". Reading Research Quarterly. 44 (1): 57–83. doi:10.1598/rrq.44.1.3. hdl:2022/3463. ISSN 0034-0553.
- Brocklebank, Lisa. Disney's Mulan – the "true" deconstructed heroine?. OCLC 924435148.
- Donahue, Maggie (August 22, 2018). "Mulan's Gender Politics Haven't Aged So Gracefully". AV Club.