The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Avengers: Infinity War

Set after Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War (Avengers) finally showcases the baddy that the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU) has been teasing for years, Thanos (Josh Brolin).

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Thanos brings down a moon.

Thanos believes that the universe is overpopulated and that there are not enough resources for every living being. His solution to this perceived problem is to annihilate half of the universe’s population, and for him to accomplish this goal, he needs all six Infinity Stones. Thanos thus begins to actively pursue the Infinity Stones and the only beings standing between him and his genocidal plans are Earth’s and space’s heroes.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Avengers passed the race test but did not pass the Russo or Bechdel test.

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Black Panther prepares for battle against Thanos’ army.

Avengers sported a huge cast full of White and non-White actors, and while White actors took up a lot of screen time (minus Zoe Saldana who appeared in a fair amount of the film, albeit in full body green body paint), there were moments where non-White actors not only had lines but had conversations with one another. Case in point, when Thanos’ army arrived in Wakanda and the Avengers and the Wakandins were waiting for the army to attack, Black Panther, Okoye and M’Baku had a couple of conversations amongst each other. They, furthermore, did not mention anyone White during these particular instances so the film passed the race test (relevant side note, if Black Panther had not been added into the MCU, chances are that the existing non-White characters in the MCU would have never talked to each other and done so without mentioning anyone White). Alas, this was not the case for Avengers when it came to the Russo and Bechdel tests.

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The Avengers and Guardians await for Thanos on Titan.

Avengers failed to pass the Russo test, quite simply, because none of the characters were ever identified as being LGBTQIA. Avengers did not pass the Bechdel for slightly more nuanced reasons.

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Scarlet Witch looks to Vision.

There were several named women in Avengers who not only had lines but also, occasionally, spoke to other women. So why did the film fail to pass the Bechdel? Because out of the couple of times that named women talked to each other, they almost always talked at one another other instead of conversing (e.g., Okoye asked Black Widow why Scarlet Witch hadn’t helped out in the battle against Thanos’ army earlier and Black Widow didn’t respond), and in the single instance that named women truly conversed with one another (e.g., in a recording of a memory, Gamora and Nebula discussed Thanos and the Infinity Stones), they mentioned a man.

*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, queer, asexual 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.

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