The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Friends with Kids

Friends with Kids is a film that reflects our time and that explores and challenges the ever changing definition of what it means to be a family. To be more specific, the film explores what happens when two heterosexual, opposite sex friends (Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott) decide to have a family but do so based on their own terms and have a child with each other whilst remaining friends. And while this concept of two friends having a kid together isn’t exactly revolutionary as this is a process that some LGBTI (and other) individuals have and do go through, this film, nonetheless, is charming and is an enjoyable watch.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Friends with Kids passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

There are several named women in Friends with Kids and there are several occasions where these named women talk to each other. Almost every time that women (named or unnamed) talk to each other in this film, men are mentioned, but because there are two occasions where named women do manage to talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Julie and Leslie talk about Julie helping Leslie in the kitchen and Julie tells Mary Jane that she found some of Mary Jane’s thongs in her [Julie’s] apartment), the film passes the Bechdel test.

In regards to the Russo and race test, Friends with Kids passes neither test, and the film does not pass these tests because there are no LGBTI characters in the film and because there is only one non-White actor (Maya Rudolph) in Friends with Kids.

*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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