The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Big Eyes

Based on a true story, Big Eyes tells the tale of Margaret (Amy Adams), a mother who divorces her husband and then winds up in a second marriage to a man (Walter Keane as played by Christoph Waltz) who takes the credit for the creation of her paintings.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

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

Named women talk to each other a couple of times in Big Eyes, and on three of these occasions,  named women talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g., on three separate occasions Margaret and her daughter talk about Margaret’s paintings) so the film passes the Bechdel test. However, while the film passes the Bechdel test, it does not pass either Russo or race test because there are no LGBTI characters in the film and because the few non-White characters in the film 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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