Bad Boys (1995)
I scored Bad Boys (1995), a hyperactive action cop film laced with comedy directed by Michael Bay. In the film, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are two Miami cops who are in charge of recovering $100 million worth of stolen heroin from the headquarters. I selected this film because the protagonists are both African-American male actors. In addition, Bad Boys does not portray the women within the film objectively to supplement the men’s roles, but instead as more active characters in helping the cops in the case of burglary. These two aspects of the characters’ race and the improving representation of female characters will help increase the score on the Representation Test. However, the score for Bad Boys stopped at an A with just 6 out of 27 points for its lack of LGBT and disabled persons.
In the first section of the test, “Women,” Bad Boys scored a 3 out 7, which is an adequate score considering the violent nature of this action film. The case assignment goes to Lowrey and Burnett, and Lowrey asks Theresa Randle, a prostitute, to keep an eye open for the high rollers who are associated with the criminal mastermind. The thieves then kill the woman while she was trying to retrieve the information for Lowrey. The scene takes up a third of entire film. Although Theresa is not a main character and there are some scenes hinting at female exploitation, Theresa’s bravery proves her values. Additionally, Theresa and her friend, Julie, who also cooperates in helping Lowrey, are both of color; yet maintain a role that has depth beyond the stereotypes of both women and African-Americans in society. Many scenes support this, such as where Lowrey asks Theresa to help him to approach the high rollers and she courageously accepts. Julie, the sole witness of Theresa’s death, is extremely scared of revenge but offers to help the officers solve the crime. Therefore, the film scored perfectly in the Bechdel Test for the inclusion of women of different race in speaking roles rather than compressing to racial stereotypes and their representation as more than “objects for the male gaze.”
In the second section, “Men,” the film scores 2 out of 4 points for its inclusion of men of different colors in non-stereotypical roles as protagonists and supplemental characters. Shootouts and chase scenes exemplify this when Lowrey and Burnett wind up in a truck filled with barrels of flammable ether while the villains race after them. Lowrey then pushes the barrels onto the road, shoots—causing them to catch on fire—, and sends them pummeling into the cars behind them. Furthermore, the part of the film when Burnett impersonates Lowrey and deals with his household business while Lowrey is out in the battle dealing with Julie is, in my opinion, strange but creative. It creates conflict and defies the stereotypes of male characters in film. Unfortunately, because of the intense violence and pervasive strong language, the film loses its credits of avoiding violence scenes and perpetuating an extreme ideal for men, bringing its score in this section down.
In the third section, “Race, Ethnicity and Culture,” the film does not touch on any offensive racial and cultural stereotypes but instead elevates these characters of different colors to an equal level where they can freely perform and prove themselves. The starts casted are mostly African-American actors or actresses, and the extent of the humor and their ability to enjoy themselves helps to prove that Michael Bay favors indiscrimination, which leads me to add a point in this third section.
Combining the fourth, fifth and final bonus sections of inclusion of LGBT people, people with disabilities and specialties of the film director, Bad Boys did not receive any points. There are times that the film actually mentions the stereotype of LGBT people in an ironic, devaluing manner. Therefore, it does not receive a score, even though the film briefly touches on the subjects.
In conclusion, this “Representation Test” contains both pros and cons. The pros include covering various aspects, touching on diverse roles of characters, and bringing all the shades of indiscrimination together. It means that films about anti-racism, human civil rights movements, female suffrages, and/or LGBT and people with disabilities will score higher than the rest. Scoring low indicates that the film represents narrow array of people and experiences. However, at times I do not think that this is necessary. Films usually focus on their main themes and specific genres, which help make them unique and unalloyed. If there were more concentrations in specific genres so that audience could get the best interpretation of the film, the quality of the test would improve.