The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings is an autobiographical drama film about the Beat Generation. More specifically, the film tells the story of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) and their relationships with each other and the killing that occurred in Riverside Park.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Kill Your Darlings passes the Russo test but does not pass the Bechdel or race test.

Three characters in Kill Your Darlings are indicated to be LGBTI – Allen, Lucien and David. None of these three characters are solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Allen, Lucien and David are also defined as being writers and anti-establishment), and they are all pivotal to the plot of the film as the film is about their relationships with each other. Kill Your Darlings thus meets all of the requirements of the Russo test so the film passes the Russo test.

In regards to Bechdel and race test, there is never an instance in Kill Your Darlings where women talk to each other (and there is only one woman with a name in the film), and none of the non-White characters in the film have speaking parts so the film obviously does not pass either the Bechdel or race 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.

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