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The Riz Test: an easy way to keep track of how films and TV are portraying Muslims

The Riz Test: an easy way to keep track of how films and TV are portraying Muslims

Categories: Latest News

Thursday July 05 2018

TV programmes and films play a special role in our lives, helping us escape the busy mundane reality of Mondays and Tuesdays for a more exciting space of possibilities. They make us feel happy, inquisitive, angry, sad, amazed, fearful, inspired, surprised, annoyed, and a host of other emotions – at times in space of minutes! We look to them to gain a different perspective of life, and try to place ourselves in the shoes of the characters. However, the difficulty in doing so increases if you are Black, if you are a Woman, if you are Hispanic, if you are East-Asian, if you are South-Asian, or if you entertain any number of various other minority labels.

The problem of type-casting and lack of representation is well recorded.

In 2016, the BFI Creative Director, Heather Stewart said: “Colour-blind casting across genres does not really exist on the big screen”, and in a study conducted this year, 2018, by the University of Leicester noted that BAME workers comprised only 4.4% of the broadcasting workforce.

With a clear lack of on-screen/off-screen representation and narrow range of roles available, frequently shown to be aggressive, illiberal, misogynistic, members of the Muslim community appreciate the struggle well!

But only now has a tool been developed to investigate the portrayal of Muslims in Films and TV shows.

The Riz Test”, a concept developed by a small team inspired by Riz Ahmed’s speech on the importance of representation in Parliament and the Bechdel Test, is a new way to “measure the portrayal of Muslims on Film and TV”.

The test sets up a simple five-step criteria in determining whether a particular film or TV show is negatively portraying Muslims.

The creators, outlining their reasons for developing the project, state: “We’re passionate film buffs but we’re tired of the same old stereotypes and tropes being perpetuated in Films and TV shows. So we’ve decided to do something about it. We’ve developed a simple test, with five criteria, to measure how well – or poorly Muslims are portrayed on screen”.

The criteria are:

“If the film/show stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character…

  1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?
  2. Presented as irrationally angry?
  3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
  4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
  5. If the character is:
    1. Male: is he presented as misogynistic?
    2. Female: is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts?”

The creators of the Test state that if any of the answers for the question are “Yes”, then the film is pushing for a negative portrayal of Muslims and thus fail, with a score out of five.

Riz Ahmed, in response to the creation of the test, also Tweeted to express his support for the initiative, saying that it was “much needed”.

It is imperative that films and TV programmes move away from the stereotypical type-casting of Muslims that currently proliferates the field, and represent the diverse Muslim community more accurately which will not just improve the perception of the media industry by the Muslim community but will also bring economic benefits.

Quoting Riz Ahmed from his speech at Parliament:

“If we fail to represent, I think we’re in danger of losing out in three ways, the three Es: 1) we’re going to lose people to Extremism; 2) we’re going to lose out on an Expansive idea of who we are as individuals and as a community; 3) we’re going to really lose out on the Economic benefits that proper representation can bring to our economy”.

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