The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Top Five

Top Five passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

First of all, Top Five passed the Bechdel test just by the skin of its teeth. There was one extremely brief instance where two named women talked to each other without mentioning men and that was when the stripper Jasmine said hello to Whoopi in the strip club. That was it. Every other time women talked to each other, they either mentioned men or didn’t have names. The film did a better job of passing the Russo test.

To expand on that, the film had three characters who were either bisexual, pansexual or gay, but only one bisexual/pansexual character actually passed the Russo test. That character was Chelsea. Chelsea was either bisexual or pansexual as she admitted to having two relationships with women, she was a co-lead in the film (so she was irreplaceable), and she wasn’t defined by her sexuality. The same couldn’t be said about her boyfriend Brad, or Ryan who slept with Brad.

Brad and Ryan could have been bisexual, pansexual or gay and in the closet. Furthermore, all that was known about Ryan was that he was friends with Brad and that he slept with him. Ryan was predominately defined by his sexual orientation, and he could have been replace by any other man or woman so the film did not pass the Russo test based on his character. Brad’s case was a little bit trickier.

The audience knew, before they even met Brad, that it was his birthday and that he was a DJ. However, besides that, the audience didn’t really know anything about him except that he cheated on Chelsea with another man. Thus, despite the fact that he was an important part of the plot, the film would not have passed the Russo test based on Brad’s character.

Top Five also passed the race test. The cast was mostly comprised of Black actors so there were many instances where Black characters talked to each other without mentioning White people.

*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.