The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Pariah

Pariah is a fantastic, coming-of-age film that tells the story of Alike, a young, Black, lesbian. 

At school, everyone knows that Alike is gay, but, at home, Alike has yet to come out to her parents despite their suspicions. She knows that, to them, her being gay is a worst case scenario, so instead of her or her parents acknowledging her sexual orientation, they all live in denial, and her parents do their best to control and change Alike. As to Alike, she does her best to appease everyone and changes her persona and her clothes according to who she is with, but while this works for a time, after a while, she refuses to live a double life.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Pariah easily passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

There were numerous occasions where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (since most the cast were women), and non-White characters talked to each other without mentioning White people (as the entire cast was Black) so Pariah passed the Bechdel and race test. The film also passed the Russo test as Alike, Bina and Laura were all gay or bisexual, they were not defined by their sexuality (e.g., Alike liked poetry, Bina was an alternative girl, and Laura was working on her GED), and they were all irreplaceable as Alike was the protagonist, and Bina and Laura were central to Alike’s story.

*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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