The widely known movie, Zero Dark Thirty, is an intense chronicle of the decade-long hunt for Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11th attacks, and his death at the hands of Navy SEAL Team Six in May 2011. The movie follows the protagonist, Maya, a CIA rookie operative, whose first experience is being assigned to Pakistan in order to learn vital techniques and how seek out the whereabouts of Bin Laden. For several years, she becomes obsessed with the task at hand and is relentless in her single-minded pursuit of leads to discover the location of Al Qaeda's leader. Finally, in May of 2011, her work pays off as the White House finally approves the mission for SEAL Team Six team to be sent out in order to kill Bin Laden following the lead of Maya. Despite not being believed by many of her colleagues, Maya proclaims that she is “100%” confident that Bin Laden is where she says he is.
The Representation Test is a media literacy tool meant to spark learning and conversation around representation in film, and to encourage more overall diversity on screen and behind-the-scenes in Hollywood. Zero Dark Thirty received a grade of ten points, the scale equivalence of a B. The test is divided into six different categories: women, men, race, ethnicity, and culture, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and bonus points.
Most of Zero Dark Thirty’s points came from the first category, examining the role of women within the film. Because the protagonist was a woman, Maya portrayed by Jessica Chastain, the film was awarded two points instead of the normal one point due to the fact that men play the role of the protagonist in most movies. Any viewer can see that Maya is the protagonist simply because the movie follows her complete journey in the task of capturing and killing Bin Laden. Furthermore, the film was given points for including women of color in speaking roles who were not reduced to racial stereotypes, representing women as more than “object for the male gaze,” including women in speaking roles with diverse body types, and passing the Bechdel Test. These women acted throughout the entire movie at various times as other CIA agents who aided Maya in her quest for justice. For example, Jennifer Ehle plays the role of Jessica, one of Maya’s colleagues and closest girlfriend throughout the movie.
Zero Dark Thirty scored in three out of four sections in the men category by including men of color in speaking roles who were not reduced to racial stereotypes and including men in non-stereotypical roles, as well as avoiding perpetuating an extreme and unhealthy body ideal for men. Both Harold Perrineau, who plays Jack, and J.J. Kandel, who portrays J.J., are men of color and other ethnicities who assist Maya in her research throughout the movie’s entirety. However, this movie does not score in the glorifying violent men section because of the harsh techniques used in interrogation and the actual mission (would not score for women either).
Furthermore, the movie fails to score in any of the next three categories of race, ethnicity, and culture, LGBT people, and people with disabilities. The LGBT people and people with disabilities sections were easy to score simply because of the nature of the movie. This movie did not have anything to do with LBGT people or people with disabilities and did not place any emphasis on these characteristics; any viewer could comprehended this idea. Contrastingly, the race, ethnicity, and culture section played more of an important role in the movie. Seeing that the movie is based on capturing, interrogating, and ultimately killing terrorist of a different race and ethnicity, conveying different cultures, Zero Dark Thirty failed to score points in this category because of the unavoidable stereotypes brought along with these characters.
Finally, the movie scored one bonus point for having a woman director. Kathryn Bigelow is a renowned director who is also widely known for directing The Hurt Locker and the TV movie, The Miraculous Year. She has also won two Oscars for “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Achievement in Directing,” both for the film, The Hurt Locker.
Overall, I believe that is a fair method of grading movies, despite the fact that most movies do not score high on the test. Zero Dark Thirty is one of few movies that scored close to an A, missing the mark by only one point. This is mostly due to the fact that most motion pictures score low in the women category mainly because of having men protagonist. In addition, other cinemas score low in the other five categories, similar to Zero Dark Thirty. Personally, I would not change anything in The Representation Test: I believe that the categories are fair and encompass key viewpoints that every movie should be diagnosed by. It is simply the nature of Hollywood that many movies are produced with the same elements, scoring low as a result, but proves to be successful, verified by box office sales and overall popularity of a film.