The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Cinderella

Cinderella is a live-action rendition of Disney’s animated Cinderella, and like its predecessor, the film has a tendency to be insipid and boring.

Cinderella is almost exactly the same as its animated version – Ella has two loving parents, they both die, she’s left to deal with her obnoxious stepmother and stepsisters, and she falls in love with a prince. The biggest difference between the two is that the live-action film attempts to create more of a history between Ella and Kit (the prince), and some of the characters have more depth than their animated counterparts. For example, the audience sees more of the prince and his father in the live-action version, and it shows how the two affectionately banter with each other and how the prince must cope with his father’s impending death. The audience also gets to see the stepmother in a slightly different light.

The stepmother doesn’t talk much, but of what the audience does see and hear, it is much easier empathize with this stepmother than with the previous versions of the stepmother (not that women need to be likeable). With this stepmother we finally get to see events from her perspective, a woman whose true love has died and who has remarried a man who is still in love with his dead wife (and who will never love her the way he did with his first wife) so that her daughters may eventually have an advantageous marriage. Out of all of the characters that were given more depth, the portrayal of the stepmother works the best, and Cate Blanchett (who plays the stepmother) easily steals the show. She, by far, displays the best acting, and she most definitely has the best gowns. As far as I’m concerned, she should have been the protagonist. Ella was too flimsy of a character to carry such a large movie, and as a person, she didn’t have much substance.

The Bechdel, Russo and Race Test

Cinderella passes the Bechdel and race test but does not pass the Russo test.

The film does not pass the Russo test because there are no LGBTI characters. The film does pass the Bechdel test because there are several instances where named women talk to each other without mentioning men, and Cinderella passes the race test because there is one instance where non-White characters talk to each other without mentioning White people (i.e., when the captain helps a Black woman try on the glass slipper).

*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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