The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

There were a few moments in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 where women murmured mundane and inconsequential comments to each other so the film did pass the Bechdel (it’s sad to think that this counts as passing), but it did not pass the Russo or race test. There were no LGBT characters, and while there were some non-White characters (the most prominent of which was Electro) none of them interacted with each other. It was hard to believe that this movie was set in New York City when (according to the film) LGBT individuals didn’t exist, and non-White people were not only almost nonexistent, but they never spoke to each other. The film’s lack of diverse representation was embarrassing. And then there was the fact that Gwen Stacy was killed in order to further the plotline. Heaven forbid Spider-Man moved to England. Seriously.

Gwen Stacy had everything going on. She was standing up for herself, generally succeeding at life, moving to England to pursue her education (instead of sacrificing her goals so that she could stay in NYC with Peter), and Peter was going to move with her because, duh, there’s crime around the world. And then she was killed.

Gwen and Peter could have easily have stayed broken up, but instead, Gwen was killed in order to insure that Spider-Man wouldn’t move to England, continue to stalk her, or get back together with her (thus making him available to new love interests like Mary Jane). Her death also furthered Peter’s tragic storyline and added depth and angst (people love angsty superheroes) to his character.

This kind of female character death is nothing new. Women’s deaths, torture, injuries and/or disempowerment as a means to advance a plotline has been used numerous times, but in this specific instance it was particularly annoying. Gwen was built up to be more than a love interest who sat quietly in the wings. She was a (seemingly) progressive character who didn’t allow others to dictate her actions, but because she died that progression was negated as she ultimately existed as a means to further Spider-Man’s plotline. Which is just weak writing.

*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.