The Bechdel, Russo and Race Test: Whale Rider

Whale Rider just barely passed the Bechdel test. There were several women, and they did talk to each other, but the few times they spoke to each other their conversations almost always revolved around men (either directly or indirectly). However, there were a few sentences that did not relate to men such as at the beginning of the movie when some Maori women were playing cards and Pai scolded them.

The Whale Rider also passed the race test. Almost the entire cast was non-White since the film focused on Maori culture, and the only time a White person was mentioned was when Pai’s father announced he had a German girlfriend. However, while the film passed the Bechdel and race test it did fail the Russo test since there were no identifiable LGBT characters.

*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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