The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Ex Machina

Ex Machina is a film about a computer programmer named Caleb who wins the opportunity to spend a week with his company’s reclusive owner Nathan. When Caleb meets Nathan, he learns that he (Nathan) has made an AI named Ava and that he wants Caleb to test Ava to see if he thinks she has consciousness. Caleb, of course, agrees to test Ava, and when he meets her, she is more than anything that he could have ever had expected.

In the one week that Caleb stays with Nathan, he falls in love with Ava and decides that he wants to rescue her from Nathan. The only problem is is that he’s not sure who he can trust. On one hand, Ava tells him that he can’t believe anything that Nathan says, and on the other, Nathan tells Caleb that Ava is only trying to manipulate him. In the end, Caleb decides to trust Ava’s word over Nathan’s and this proves to be his undoing.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Ex Machina does not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test. The film does not pass any of the diversity tests because women never talk to each other, there are no LGBTI characters, and 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.