The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch played the British cryptanalyst Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. The film largely focused on Turing’s work on breaking the Enigma code, and the building of his computer, Christopher, but there were also some flashbacks which fleshed out his childhood (and didn’t distract from the storyline – instead it helped build the movie), his friendship with and engagement to the brilliant Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley) was shown, and the film included how he was arrested for being gay and forced to choose between going to prison or receiving chemical castration. It was a fantastic film with fantastic performances (with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley and Allen Leech’s performances being especially good). That being said, the film only passed the Russo test. 

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Thankfully, The Imitation Game did not erase the fact that Alan Turing was gay nor did it define Turing by his sexual orientation. Alan Turing was characterized as a multidimensional and complicated person who had many facets, and because he was not defined by his sexual orientation, and he was irreplaceable (seeing as he was the subject of the film) The Imitation Game passed the Russo test. As to the Bechdel and race test, the film did not pass either of them.

Women talked to each other once. Both of the women who talked to each other had names (Joan Clarke and Helen), but because they only talked about men (directly and indirectly) the film did not pass the Bechdel test. The film also failed to pass the race test, and the film did not pass this test because there were no non-White characters.

*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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