The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak, the new gothic film from Guillermo del Toro, is about a young American woman, Edith (Mia Wasikowska), who has been able to see ghosts ever since her mother died. Frightened by the ghosts she sees, Edith does her best to tolerate them whilst simultaneously ignoring them. However, when Edith falls in love with a mysterious stranger (Sir Thomas Sharpe as played by Tom Hiddleston) and moves into his isolated and decaying home in England, she finds that she can no longer ignore ghosts as around every corner there is a new specter vying for her attention. The question then becomes for Edith, why are there so many ghosts in Thomas’s home and what exactly do they want from her?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Crimson Peak passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

There are only a few named women in Crimson Peak and there are even fewer moments where any of these named women talk to each other. However, despite how infrequently named women talk to each other in Crimson Peak, there are some moments where named women talk to each other without mentioning men (and most of these conversations occur between Edith and Lucille) so the film passes the Bechdel test. Crimson Peak does not, however, pass either the Russo or race test.

Crimson Peak fails to pass the Russo test because there are no LGBTI characters in the film. And in the case of the race test, Crimson Peak does not pass this test because the only two non-White people that appear in the film (two Black maids) 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.