The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Immigrant

The Immigrant tells the tale of Ewa, a Polish woman who is hoping to find a new life in New York. However, once Ewa and her sister Magda arrive at Ellis Island, her dreams are almost immediately dashed as Magda is detained and placed in quarantine, and Ewa is told that she must return to Poland.

Right before Ewa is about to be deported back to Poland she runs into a man named Bruno. Bruno tells her that he can get her off the island and into New York, and Ewa is so desperate to get into New York that she has no choice but to trust the man. Bruno does, sure enough, get her into New York, but the question is, at what cost?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Immigrant passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

The film passes the Bechdel test because there is at least one instance where named women talk to each other without mentioning men – when Ewa finds her uncle’s home and she is greeted by her aunt. The film does not pass the Russo or race test because there are no LGBTI or 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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