The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: No Good Deed

No Good Deed is just like any other home-invasion thriller – the woman’s intelligence is put into question and the explanation behind the killer’s pathology doesn’t quite make sense.

In the film, Terry (Taraji P. Henson), a former attorney turned stay-at-home mom, has a tense relationship with her husband Jeffrey who is almost never home and who always has an excuse for why he can’t spend more time with his family. One day when Jeffrey is (once again) out all night, a handsome stranger (Idris Elba) stops by Terry’s home asking for help. Terry, at first reluctant to help this stranger (especially since her husband isn’t home), eventually warms up to the man and decides to let him inside while he waits for a tow truck. This, however, proves to be a fatal mistake on Terry’s part, as unbeknownst to her, the man has an agenda against her family and he doesn’t plan to solve his problems by talking them out.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

No Good Deed passes the Bechdel and race test but does not pass the Russo test.

No Good Deed passes the Bechdel test because there are two instances where named women and girls talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Meg asks Terry’s daughter who her favorite person is and Terry tells her daughter what to do in the kitchen). The film also passes the race test, and No Good Deed passes this test because there are several occasions where non-White characters talk to each other without mentioning White people.

As to the Russo test, No Good Deed does not pass this test because there are no LGBTI characters in the 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.

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