The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Babadook

The Babadook is an indie film from Jennifer Kent that is about Amelia (Essie Davis), a single mother who is struggling to take care of her son (Noah Wiseman). Amelia’s son has been deemed a “problem child” so no one wants anything to do with her, and when a mysterious creature begins to terrorize Amelia and her son, Amelia finds that she has no one to turn to and that she must protect herself and her son from the creature on her own.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

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

Amelia and her son search for the creature.

There are several named women in The Babadook who do speak to each other and because there is one instance where women who have names talk to each other and they do not mention men in their conversation (e.g., Amelia offers a named female patient a drink), the film passes the Bechdel test. The Babadook does not, however, pass either the Russo or race test, and the film does not pass these tests because there are no LGBTI or non-White 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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