The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Age of Adaline

I saw The Age of Adaline this weekend and it was surprisingly enjoyable to watch.

The premise of the film was that a woman named Adaline had died and been resuscitated through a freak accident, and as a consequence, she was no longer able to age. For some, this would have been a gift, but for Adaline, it was a curse.

Adaline lived through several decades in near isolation, changing her identity every ten years, afraid that if anyone knew that she didn’t age that she would become a curiosity and would be studied. Her lonely, isolated life, however, was interrupted and altered one day  when a very pushy man named Ellis insinuated himself into her life despite her numerous objections and rejections. The two (regardless of the fact that they had zero chemistry, shared nothing in common and Ellis knew nothing about Adaline) grew to care for one another, but their relationship was precarious as Adaline felt that she shouldn’t date him because she didn’t age and matters only grew worse once she realized that she has dated his father.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Age of Adaline passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

The film passes the Bechdel test because there are several occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men, but the film does not pass the Russo or race test because there are no LGBTI characters, and non-White characters never speak to each other.

*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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