The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Adult World

Adult World passed the Bechdel test but failed to pass the Russo and race test.

There were a few instances in Adult World where named women talked to each other without mentioning men so the film easily passed the Bechdel test, and conversely, Adult World easily failed to pass the race test since non-White characters never spoke to each other, but whether Adult World passed or did not pass the Russo test was a little bit iffy.

In Adult World, there was a transgendered female character named Rubia, but her portrayal was problematic due to the fact that it was difficult to differentiate whether Rubia was meant to be a drag queen or a transgendered character as she was portrayed as being a very stereotypical drag queen. While such blatant stereotyping was troubling and misrepresentative of trans women this did not disqualify the film from passing the Russo test. What disqualified the film was that the viewer did not know anything personal about Rubia besides her trans status. Yes, it was known that Rubia occasionally went to Adult World to cut Alex’s hair, but what did that tell the audience? Not much. It wasn’t even known whether she’s was a stylist or Alex just liked having her cut his hair. And, yes, Rubia was important to the plot. Because Rubia existed Amy was able to run away from home and met Rat Billings which was central to the entire plot. However, because nothing is really truly known about Rubia’s life besides her trans status Adult World failed the Russo test.

*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.