The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Dear White People

In Dear White People, four Black college students’ lives and intersecting identities were examined as they navigated a predominately White college which was steeped in racism and homophobia.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Dear White People passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

The film passed the Bechdel test because there was one instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men – when Sam talked to Coco in passing and told her that she was late to the election.

Dear White People also passed the Russo test because Lionel, one of the protagonists of the film, was gay, he was not solely defined by his sexual orientation (e.g., he was a student and a journalist), and because he couldn’t have been removed from the plot without causing a significant change to the film’s story (because, duh, he was a protagonist).

As to the race test, Dear White People passed this test because there were several non-White characters in the film who talked to each other without mentioning White people (though there were also several occasions where non-White characters talked to each other about White people as race was a pivotal part of this film).

*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.