British East and Southeast Asian media advocacy group BEATS has launched a three-point tick system designed to address authentic representation in TV and film and end ‘tick-box’ casting.
Decrying the ‘zero inclusion’ of BESEA people on screen, the group has criticised recent dramas such as BBC2/Netflix co-pro Giri/Haji and ITV’s The Singapore Grip.
It has rebuked BBC1/Netflix drama The Serpent (pictured) which launched this month and is set largely in Thailand, for having no East/Southeast Asian actors in its main cast despite centring on a real-life half-Vietnamese, half-Indian murderer.
BEATS has now unveiled a test that it suggests productions should be measured by, that would require broadcasters and producers of projects featuring BESEA talent - particularly those set in the UK - to answer ‘yes’ to at least two of the following:
(1) Are there two or more BESEA characters?
(2) Do at least two BESEA characters speak fluent English with a British accent?
(3) Does at least one BESEA character pursue their own goal separate to the white characters?
The test is loosely modelled on established efforts to expose shortcomings in gender diversity (the Bechdel test) and depiction of Muslims (writer/actor/director Riz Ahmed's Riz Test).
Speaking at the launch of the test, at a virtual event hosted by BEATS with the BFI and ITV, BEATS member and actor-writer Rebecca Boey said passing the test would be a step towards helping BESEA people become “a normalized, naturalized presence on our screen and in the fabric of British life and society”.
She added: “It would seem that passing this test is actually quite a radical and ground-breaking achievement — and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Screenwriter Emma Ko, a member of BEATS, said: “The numbers are pretty bleak for anyone who is not white, but when it comes to East Asians, they were so insignificant, they were redacted.
“When we say BESEAs are working with zero inclusion in the TV industry, we are not being impressionistic or metaphorical — we are being literal.”