The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange is a film about two men, George and Ben, who have been partners for decades. When the two marry, George is fired from his job at a Catholic church as the church views his marriage as a breach of contract. This leaves George and Ben in a predicament. Without a job, George and Ben can no longer afford their current apartment.

The two ultimately end up having to temporarily separate and live in different friends’ homes as they hunt for a new apartment. However, while their living arrangements are temporary, they are not easy for anyone involved, and George and Ben find it especially difficult to live apart and with other people.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

In respect to the diversity tests, Love Is Strange obviously passes the Russo test as a same sex couple are the protagonists of the film so they are irreplaceable, and they are not solely defined by their sexual orientation as the audience knows that the piano is an important part of George’s life and painting is an important aspect of Ben’s. The film also passes the race test as there are one or two brief instances where non-White characters talk to each other without mentioning White people. Love Is Strange, however, does not pass the Bechdel test as there are zero instances where named women talk to each other without mentioning men.

*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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