The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Spy

Spy is an enjoyable comedy that is chalk full of women. In the film, Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst. Cooper, despite being fully qualified to work as a field agent, has chosen to blend into the background and work as support for the man she loves, field Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). However, when Agent Fine is killed one day during an assignment to retrieve a nuclear weapon, Cooper finds that she is no longer satisfied working behind a desk, so she sets out to personally avenge Fine’s death and becomes a field agent.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

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

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There are at least five named women in Spy, and because there are numerous occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men, the film passes the Bechdel test. The film does not, however, pass the Russo test because there are no LGBTI characters in Spy, and the film does not pass the race test because the handful of non-White characters in Spy 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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