The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Brooklyn

A tale of immigration, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who migrates from Ireland to Brooklyn during the 1950s.

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Eilis begins her new job in Brooklyn.

Eilis is a bright, young woman who wishes to pursue an education and to make a decent living. Unfortunately for her, there are no work or school opportunities available in Eilis’s home country of Ireland. Eilis thus moves to Brooklyn, and while she fulfills her goals of attaining a job and an education by migrating, Eilis is absolutely miserable.

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Eilis meets and falls in love with Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian man.

Eilis is terribly homesick. She misses her home and her family and a part of her wishes that she had never moved to the U.S. However, right when her homesickness becomes neigh but unbearable, Eilis encounters an Italian man, and suddenly, living in the U.S. becomes a whole lot bearable.

Eilis falls in love with the Italian man and she eventually marries him, but when a tragedy strikes at home and Eilis returns to Ireland, Eilis finds herself drawn to a new man and she begins to question her marriage to the Italian. The question thus becomes, should Eilis stay with the Italian or she should move on to the new man, and more importantly, where does her destiny lie – Brooklyn or Ireland?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Brooklyn passes the Bechdel test but it does not pass the Russo or race test.

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Back in Ireland after tragedy has struck her home, Eilis shares a dance with Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson).

There are many women in Brooklyn (several of whom have names) and there are several occasions in the film where women speak to each other. Of the many times that women talk to each other in Brooklyn, there are several instances where the women who are speaking to each other have names and there are several instances where named women talk to each other without mentioning men so the film passes the Bechdel test. Brooklyn does not, however, pass the Russo or race test.

Brooklyn does not pass the Russo test because there are no LGBTI characters in the film. The film does not pass the race test because while there are a few non-White actors in Brooklyn’s almost entirely White cast, there is never an instance where anyone non-White actually speaks to each other in Brooklyn.

*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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