The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Mr. Turner

In Mr. Turner, the last 26 years of the enigmatic painter J.M.W. Turner’s life is examined. The film covers Turner’s father’s death, his (Turner’s) transition to more surrealist and abstract paintings, his secret marriage and his own death.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Mr. Turner passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

There are a couple of named women in Mr. Turner and a couple of occasions where named women do talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g,. Miss Danby greets Mary Somerville and Mrs. Booth greets a named woman) so the film passes the Bechdel test. The film does not, however, pass either the Russo or race test as there are no LGBTI or non-White characters in Mr. Turner.

*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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