The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Whiplash

Whiplash is a quietly intense film that actually delivers on its promised goal of greatness.

Whiplash tells the story of Andrew Neiman, a young man who is enrolled in a music conservatory and serves as a second-string drummer for a mediocre orchestra. Neiman wishes for greatness, and one day, a well-respected (and feared) conductor who is known for being temperamental answers Neiman’s call and  plucks him out of his mediocre jazz ensemble and places him into his own orchestra. It is from this point forward that Neiman is pushed to achieve greatness, no matter what the cost.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Whiplash does not pass any of the diversity tests. The film fails to pass the Bechdel test as women never talk to each other which is not surprising when one considers how women barely exist in Whiplash (e.g., there are only three speaking parts for women) which is mystifying as this makes one wonder, how can so many men exist when there are no women (you know, those people who give birth to other human beings)? As to why the film does not pass the race test, none of the non-White characters talk to each other. At all. Ever. Which is pretty amazing when one considers how half of the cast is non-White. Then there is the Russo test.

Whiplash fails to pass the Russo test because LGBTI characters are nonexistent. As in, there are absolutely no LGBTI characters. So, yeah. Whiplash is just a major fail in regards to portraying diversity.

*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.