The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Doctor Strange

For the first time in a couple of years, Marvel has released an origin film. The newest hero to be added to the Marvel film franchise? Doctor Strange.

Dr. Stephen Strange wanders Asia, searching for a place called Kamar-Taj. Dr. Strange hopes that once he finds this place, his hands (which were badly damaged in an accident) will be healed.

In Doctor Strange, an arrogant, White, doctor dude (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) discovers that magic is very much real. The doctor also learns that a sorcerer (played by Mads Mikkelsen) with ambitions to become immortal is about to fuck up the earth in his pursuit of immortality and that he (the doctor) is needed to help stop this sorcerer as he (the doctor) just so happens to be really good at magic. The crux of the film thus becomes, will the arrogant doctor use his new found abilities for his own purposes or will he use it to fight a battle that he never knew existed and that he wants no part of?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Like most Marvel films, Doctor Strange does not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test.

Dr. Strange attempts to learn magic. It’s not quite working out.

In Doctor Strange, there are only three women with speaking parts (e.g., The Ancient One; Dr. Palmer; and a woman on a medical board/consulting team who says a line or two and tells Dr. Strange that a new medical procedure may help heal his hands); women never speak to each other; and only one woman (Dr. Palmer) has a name. The film thus obviously fails to pass the Bechdel test, and Doctor Strange fares no better when it comes to the Russo and race tests.

Dr. Strange defends himself and fights for his life when an evil sorcerer and his minions attack him (Dr. Strange).

Doctor Strange does not pass the Russo test, and the film does not pass this diversity test because there are no LGBTI characters in Doctor Strange (which is no surprise, because as far memory serves, a Marvel movie character has yet to be identified as being LGBTI). Doctor Strange also fails to pass the race test, and the film fails to pass this test because while there are a couple of non-White individuals in the film (two of whom play prominent parts – Chiwetel Ejiofor, for example, plays Mordo and Benedict Wong plays Wong), there is never an instance where two or more non-White individuals talk to each other let alone talk to each other without mentioning anyone White.

*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.