The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship is a wonderful period piece that doesn’t actually feel like a period piece. The film is an adaption of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, and the film centers around the novella’s namesake Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale).

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Lady Susan.

Lady Susan is a woman of reasonable means who has fallen on hard times. Her husband has recently died, and as such, she has lost all financial support and she is in danger of losing her social standing. Lady Susan, however, is not the sort of woman to let such a thing as circumstances to get in the way of her desires and ambitions. She, instead, uses it to her advantage. And how does Lady Susan do this exactly? By pushing herself onto distant relatives and devising favorable marriages for both herself and her daughter (Morfydd Clark).

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Love & Friendship does not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test.

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Lady Susan moves in with her relatives Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell) and Reginald (Xavier Samuel).

The entire cast of Love & Friendship is White and all of the characters are straight and cis (or at least, none of the characters are ever implied to be otherwise), and as such, the film fails to meet any of the race and Russo test and Love & Friendship does not pass these diversity tests. Love & Friendship also fails to pass the Bechdel test.

There are a ton of women in Love & Friendship, and while most of these women have names and there are numerous occasions where some of the named women in the film talk to each other, the film does not pass the Bechdel test because whenever named women do talk to each other, they mention men.

*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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