I re-watched Alien: Covenant the other day, and I was floored to realize that it nearly passed the Jay Test, wherein 90% of all the human deaths that occur are female. I say “nearly” as a relative descriptor, since it was so close to being 50% of all deaths, which is far and away a better rating than any other movie you might see.
I know the specific metric is nearly 50% because the crew of the Covenant is made of up all couples that are on a colonization mission. There are a few thousand colonists in stasis aboard the ship, as well as over a thousand human embryos. All their fates are unknown until the next sequel, so their deaths won’t even count towards the ratio. However, 40 of the colonists are killed in an accident, their sexes unknown, so again the male/female ratio of those deaths can’t be considered.
The ship’s crew, however, all die in the course of the movie except for two: a man and woman, though it’s heavily implied that they are going to buy the farm at the end.
So, if the crew is all couples, and they all die, except for a man and woman, why is not an even 50/50 ratio of deaths? Well, one couple was gay*: Sergeant Hallis and Sergeant Lope. In the scene where David appears after the neomorph attack in the wheat field, you’ll catch one half of this (formerly) happy couple speaking an informal elegy over the corpse of his better half. If you watch one of the deleted scenes it’s very obvious that Hallis and Lope batting on the same team. So there is one more male death to cast.
Leave it to the gay couple to screw up Equality™.
* A note on this: of all the plotholes, goofs, and in-universe non-realistic plot points critics
make up point out in the Alien franchise (the Ridley Scott installments, anyway), I don’t think I’ve read anyone else mention this. There’s no way a director would put a non-breeding couple on a colonization mission. It seems far too risky to not have as many people as possible able to populate a planet. But what do I know? There’s probably a good counter to that.
Facebook friend Mike Duran posted about the Bechdel Test on his wall recently. I had never heard of it, but I’m happy to report any conversation between women appearing in Pale Blue Scratch fails the test. Well, not exactly happy; I’m really indifferent toward it. However, I don’t play the gender culture war and I don’t acknowledge finger-wagging moralists (looking at you, feminists and MRAs). That something I create might fail a silly test of one side is icing on the cake.
So, as a modest proposal, I offer my own test: the Jay Test (working title…I’m not that conceited, and “Jay Test” is easy to remember). Here it is, called out via the glorious h2 HTML tag:
I use 90% because of the non-academic estimate on my part—90% of all deaths in narratives seem to be male deaths. The “male death” ratio is heavily skewed by war films and books, simply because wars produce the greatest number of deaths. There are other genres—horror, for example—where the deaths aren’t as one sided, but the death count isn’t nearly as high.
For the record, not only does Pale Blue Scratch fail the Bechdel Test, it fails the Jay Test, too. Spectacularly. Lots of dudes dying in that book. No ladies.
EDIT: To tie this into Star Wars, as is the subject of this blog lately, see this video*. It’s a little flabbergasting to me, that a half-naked (attractive) female has a parent so riled up, when in the Star Wars prequels, there are damn well over 4 million cloned men, created specifically to fight and die in battle. The clones were also “conditioned to be absolutely obedient.” If Star Wars has a sexism issue, it’s this one. As I said, I don’t care about this…creating a clone army of men makes perfect sense, since men are more drawn to perform physical violence, etc. I’m using this example via reasoning by another framework, not my own.
* Interesting point about Leia’s slave outfit: it’s supposed to be demeaning. That Jabba stuck her in one is within his character, and the nature of owning another person. You’re not going to give a slave, male or female, a crown and scepter, are you?
EDIT 2: I’m retracting my perfect failure score for the Jay Test, for Pale Blue Scratch. There’s a scene were some people die, but it’s not explicit that it’s only men. In my mind, there were women involved. Also, “casualty” should be more defined if the test were to be administered. Is it just deaths, or can physical injury count? If it’s the latter, a female character in PBS gets injured often, almost critically.