Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Dave Test

We picked up 'Game of Thrones' and in the second episode, when one character says to another that a child should die as if he lives he will be a cripple, a grosteque. Then the character suggested that a good clean death would be best. Peter Dinklage, playing Tyrion, says '"Speaking for the grotesques, I have to disagree. Death is so final, yet life is full of possibilities.' I actually pressed the pause button and played it several times over. Just that little scene. Dinklage, getting to play a fully realized character where the fact that he is a dwarf is part of the plot, part of the storyline and actually discussed. It's only two episodes in and yet Dinklage's status as an 'outsider' is built into the storyline and actually talked about.

Many of you know of the Bechdel Test for movies. I remember reading it and being surprised at how many movies fail the test ... there are three parts of the test ... there must be two women in the movie, they must talk to each other, about something other than a man. That's it. Yikes. I thought of that while watching this scene in Game of Thrones. How rare this was ... I propose a disability version of the test ... The Dave Test ...

1) There a character with a disability in the movie
2) Who exists and takes action independantly without support or approval from others.
3) And who comments on disability as a real experience - not an enobling one, not one of pity, or one as comic relief.

I don't know what's coming in the story, we haven't read the books, but man, oh man, was it great to have some excelent disability content in a film. Speaking for the grotesques ...  Who Rah.


Blog editor said...

Love the Dave Test. Can we have a roll of movies that pass. I'll have to think ... Nothing comes to mind immediately, but I hope others can come up with something. Of course it would be much easier to come up with the failures ... But let's not. My husband rented Game of Thrones recently - I did notice in passing that that character was more than holding his own. I need to look more closely.

John R. said...

The classic film, "Freaks" from 1931(??) passes the test in an unusal way in my view. I do believe there is a very macabre, yet non-tokenizing, and ultimately final prevail for the "grotesques". Ironically enough, the film is based on the revenge of the "Freaks". They band in union and fight back towards the people who exploit them. I find that movie fitting of the Dave Test. Would love to know your (and other readers) opinion of that movie. If you have not seen it, it is obviously very dated and slightly violent(not by today's standards in film) but stands as a redemption story in 1931. This, at a time in the United States where the "Freaks" who are featured and stand as the prime players in the plot i.e.; people with dwarfism, microencephaly (called pinheads in the film) people with compromising physical differences etc...were systematically and wholsale sent to institutions or worse....I will try and think of more that pass.....hope others do as well...

Dave Hingsburger said...

Blog Editor, that happens in the second episode, it's worth watching for that alone. How often do you hear, in the land of Hollywood, that our lives are worth living.

Anonymous said...

Watched “The Descendants” yesterday- didn't go see it in theaters because I read your blog about it and I fully support the “R” word campaign. I thought rather than form an opinion about something I hadn't seen, I needed to be informed about its content and purpose in using the “R” word. Yes, the scene in there - stark and in your face; but it is not dismissed, it is not used to show defamation of people - rather it shows vilification of the character who uses it; from then on shown to be quite unintelligent for using that language - because he used it specifically - he is derided by Clooney’s character and his daughters. It really is shown that BECAUSE of the derogatory use, the character is lacking in intelligence - actually furthering your stance on the word

Anonymous said...

Loved "Games of Thrones" and Tyrion was a favorite. "Always know who and what you are Bastard then they can never hurt you with it"
Keep Watching it gets better....

Celine said...

Just finished the first book and have been looking forward to seeing how Tyrion was portrayed on screen. Glad to hear he's just as feisty as I imagined him to be.

Anonymous said...

Love the Dave Test too! I will be thinking of it as I watch movies from now on.

I read a book this week and was wondering if you had read it or heard of it and what you thought of it too.... "The Story of Beautiful Girl"? It certainly made me think about the institutions and I hope they are long gone! I would love to know your opinion.

krlr said...

My brother got me hooked on GoT -the series IS good but the books... they suck you in and they are SO LONG (in a good way) and there are SO MANY of them (in a good way). Tyrion is by far my favorite character. Though I can't wait for you to get to the next part, for your take on [spoiler alert].

Anonymous said...

I'll have to see if Game of Thrones is available in the US with captions.

A new TV program in the US that began in late 2011 is a program called "Switched at Birth" about two teen girls who were switched at birth, they and their families meet and their lives become intertwined. And one of the girls who was "switched" has been deaf since age 3, goes to a deaf school, has a good friend who is deaf and the friend also has deaf parents and a hard of hearing step mother.

Many individual episodes of this program could easily pass the original Bechdel Test for women. But in addition, many episodes could also pass a Deaf/disability version of the test. Most episodes have at least two or three deaf characters who are on the screen at some point during the hour. And many episodes do feature at least two deaf people having a conversation with each other. And some of their conversations are not about a hearing person or hearing people.

I'm sure many episodes could also pass Dave's new "test" as well. The deaf daughter, for example, has sometimes made choices that her hearing parents (birth parents, and/or the Mom who raised her) didn't necessarily agree with but were right for her at the time she made them. And one recent episode has a touching scene where the deaf daughter explains to her biological father what it means to be a member of a small community (ie, Deaf community). And, no, it was not meant to be an "enobling/heroic" speech (ok, it is partly what it means to be expected to be a model for others, but deals with the very human side of that experience), not about pity, not about comic relief.

I am very impatient waiting for the first season to come out on DVD! But, alas, I first need to wait for them to actually complete the first season! LOL! (Alas, only one episode to go for the season finale :-( ... but the show has apparently been popular so it should be back next year :-) )

I don't know if "Switched at Birth" plays anywhere outside the US or how easily it'll be available on DVD elsewhere. But if anyone reading this gets a chance, I do absolutely recommend this whole series!

Andrea S.

ivanova said...

I love the idea of the Dave Test. I was just reading Geri Jewell's autobiography--she's an American actor/comedian who has CP--and she basically described her role on the show "Deadwood" in those terms. I haven't seen that show, so I don't know anything about it.
I have my own very low-bar test for books with a character with a disability. 1) There's an important character with a disability who has a name and does not get smothered with a pillow or die in another way.

BubbleGirl said...

The Cake Eaters (2007)

It's got some good points and some not so good points, but it helped me out when I was suddenly thrown into the world of Truncal Ataxia (the girl in the movie has Freidrich's Ataxia).

Robert said...

Hello there David, you have no idea who I am but it was recommended that I contact you in regards to some ethics questions regarding the disabilty field.

So let me introduce myself. My name is Robert and I work at Community Living Toronto.

I would be very pleased if we could talk in regards to a project I'm doing for my class.

You can email me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it really counts but Rick Howland plays Trick on Lost Girl.

Louise said...

Inside I'm Dancing. Wonderful film.
Also, when I followed Anonymous's book link, it led to this:
Don't know it at all, but the review looks great.

CapriUni said...

Love it, Dave! Two things, though:

1. For Bonus Points, the Disabled Character must be played by a Disabled actor, rather than an able-bodied actor with props. We need the work, and only an actor who has lived the experience would be able to call out the writers when they slip from authenticity.

2. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a character "existing independently" (I think I do, but...) since every character must interact with other characters in the story... Do you mean that the character is motivated by personal desires, rather than motivated to please (or escape from) an able-bodied character?

Anonymous said...


I like your bonus question! The show "Switched at Birth" would pass this one too!

I interpreted "exists independently" to mean, this character has his/her own purpose in the storyline. This character wasn't created just to help us learn something about the non-disabled characters, or to serve the personal growth of the non-disabled protagonist, etc. Hope this makes sense. But I will be interested in Dave's response!


Ettina said...

Code Geass passes the test - although Lelouch's disabled little sister Nunally spends most of the first season receiving care and acting cute, in the second season she comes into her own and becomes a plot-mover with her own specific agenda. And she comments on her disability - I believe she says something to the effect of 'my disability has shown me how important it is that people be kind to each other', though it's been a long time since I watched that show.

Cynthia F. said...

I've read the books and Tyrion is my favorite character. He definitely meets the Dave test.

The books are gruesomely violent but highly entertaining. Haven't seen the HBO series yet but love Peter Dinklage - and actually read a random cultural blog post the other day by someone saying basically "hey, this guy's a great actor and very attractive, he doesn't just need to play The Dwarf, he could be the lead in any romantic comedy, where his size is just an ancillary fact rather than the reason he's there."