The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Belle

Belle was a fantastic film based on the true story of the highborn biracial woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle. JUMPBELLE-master675

Belle was born in England in the 1700s when slavery was very much prevalent, and the film followed Belle as she navigated a world where she was not fully accepted due to her skin color, yet was tolerated because of her status and wealth.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Despite being a film centered around a biracial protagonist, Belle just barely passed the race test. A few Black characters were seen in passing near the beginning and the end of the film (e.g., when Belle initially met her father a Black woman stood next to Belle), but no non-White characters, besides Belle, were in the body of the film. Though, it should be said, that the fact that Belle was the only non-White character for a large duration of the film appeared to be a purposeful plot device as her family did not want her to know the extent of how Black people were treated in England, and so they presumably kept her sheltered away from society. The film did manage to pass the race test through the one or two instances when Belle spoke directly to a Black servant. Belle also passed the Bechdel test. gfshort2f-1-web

Belle had a somewhat well-balanced gendered cast, and while there were many instances where the female cast spoke about or to men, there were also several instances where the women conversed with each other on topics outside of men. As to Belle‘s portrayal of LGBT characters, there were absolutely no LGBT characters within the film. As such, the film failed to pass the Russo test.

*The Bechdel test entails three requirements:
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

**The Vito Russo test entails three requirements:
1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and/or transgender
2. The character must not be solely or predominately defined by her sexual orientation, gender identity and/or as being intersex
3.The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that her removal would have a significant effect

***The race or people of color (POC) test has three requirements:
1. It has two people of color in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a White person

****Just because a film passes the Bechdel, Russo and race test does not mean that it is not sexist, heterosexist, racist and/or cissexist, etc. The Bechdel, Russo and race test is only a bare minimum qualifier for the representation of LGBTI individuals, women and people of color in film. The failure to pass these tests also does not identify whether the central character was a woman, a person of color or a LGBTQI individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.

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