A simple test to measure British East and South East Asian [BESEA] on-screen representation in British film and television productions.
To pass you must answer YES to these 3 questions:
- Are there 2 or more BESEA characters?
- Do at least 2 BESEA characters speak in fluent English with British accents?
- Does at least 1 BESEA character pursue their own goal separate from the white characters’?
The BEATS Test isn’t a barometer of quality – we’re not film critics! We just want the BEATS Test to be a standard for the industry to seek to achieve. Please see ‘passing the BEATS TEST’ as something positive to aspire to. And if you do, we’re happy to give you our stamp of certification:
Frequently Asked Questions about the BEATS Test
- Why do I need two or more BESEA characters to pass? For a production to pass the BEATS test, the BESEA presence must not be tokenistic – i.e., one token BESEA who is there as lip service to diversity, whose presence feels like a symbolic gesture or a box tick. This is a complex and difficult thing to prove, so in the interests of simplicity, we are saying that to pass our test and achieve our gold standard, you must have more than one BESEA character.
- Why do they have to speak in British accents to pass? Accents are often signifiers of otherness, of foreignness, a marker of newness to the UK. We at BEATS are all either immigrants or children of immigrants, so we appreciate the importance of migrant voices. We believe that films with first generation BESEAs with overseas accents have their place in our story. What we are trying to encourage, with this question about accents, is portrayals of BESEAs as second, third and even fourth generation, as people who have been here a long time, as people who were born here and grew up here.
- Are you arguing for the erasure of first generation voices? Emphatically not. As stated above, we value migrant stories and first generation voices. What we are arguing for is a bright future where first generation voices will be joined by second, third and fourth generation voices as well. The film Ping Pong  is a wonderful example of this, with a cast of 23 BESEAs from various backgrounds and with various accents.
- Why does the BESEA character need to pursue their own goal separate to a white character’s? The third question is there to make sure that the BESEA characters have a narrative that isn’t tied to, or secondary to, a white lead. In other words, they don’t exist purely for the purposes of furthering a white character’s story. This is about agency, and three-dimensional depictions that go beyond service to a white narrative.
- If my film doesn’t pass, does that mean it’s a bad film? Definitely not. Likewise, a film can pass and still be a terrible film. This test is not a barometer of quality or taste, and we are not film critics. This test is simply a measure of the British East and South East Asian representation in your production, and was devised to encourage more stories with big, beautiful BESEA casts.
- What if a film passes on all three but the story is racist or casts BESEAs in a bad light? The BEATS Test pass stamp has to be awarded by BEATS, a film can’t claim to have passed without our say so. It would be impossible for the BEATS Test to be a cast iron, infallible test, and as such, it’s not inconceivable that a racist film might slip through the net but we hope that our questions make it unlikely. In the instance of a racist film managing technically to pass, we would use our discretion as a lobbying group that advocates for humanising British East and South East Asian representation, and simply not award the film our stamp.
- What if my BESEA characters speak in Welsh? Question two mentions English for the sake of simplicity as it’s the majority language, but we appreciate that there are other UK languages such as Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and BSL. We do not mean to exclude other British languages. If your BESEA characters communicate in any UK native language, you pass on question 2.
- What about a single-character film about a BESEA? We have no issue with films like this, and we would very likely throw our support behind it. It still would not pass this test.
- What about a silent film with a full cast of BESEAs? We have no issue with films like this, and we would very likely throw our support behind it. It still would not pass this test – unless of course, they are speaking in BSL.
Click here view the original launch presentation of The BEATS Test given in January 2020 at The BFI