The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Life Partners

In the film Life Partners, Sasha and Paige have been besties for years. The two spend almost all of their time hanging out together, watching America’s Next Top Model and getting into fake fights with each other, but their dynamic changes once Paige starts dating a man named Tim.

Paige starts to grow more distant from Sasha, and in an effort to fill the Paige-sized hole in her heart, Sasha seeks out romantic partners, but all the women she dates turn out to be duds. Paige, in the meanwhile, is progressing in her own relationship with Tim, but their relationship is not all roses as Paige is constantly trying to dominate and manipulate Tim which causes problems within their relationship.

These relationship and life problems that both Paige and Sasha are experiencing ultimately leads to the two having a huge fight, and the question becomes, will their friendship survive their fight and the consequences of growing up?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

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

The film passes the Bechdel test as there are several instances where named women talk to each other without mentioning men. Life Partners also passes the Russo test because there are several lesbian characters in the film who are not solely defined by their sexual orientation and who are important to the plot of the film. For example, Sasha is one of protagonists of the film so she is irreplaceable and necessary to the plot, and she is not solely defined by her sexual orientation as she is also a friend, a receptionist, a musician and a woman trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

As to the race test, Life Partners does not pass this test because non-White characters never talk 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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