The Bechdel, Russo and Race Test: A Million Ways to Die in the West

A Million Ways to Die in the West was set in 1882 in Arizona and told the story of a sheep farmer named Albert. Albert wasn’t quite like the rest of the people in the frontier so he never really fit in. However, he was a relatively happy man until his girlfriend broke up with him for another man so he tried to make her jealous by introducing her to a fake girlfriend, Anna. However, as time moved on, Albert started to realize that maybe his fake relationship with Anna wasn’t so fake. 

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

A Million Ways to Die in the West was full of funny and not so funny (i.e., offensive, racist, etc.) jokes, and it did not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test. For instance, there were only a few times where named women talked to each other, and every time they did speak to each other they mentioned men so the film did not pass the Bechdel test. A similar problem occurred with non-White characters.

Non-White characters barely had any speaking parts, and the extremely few times they did talk to each other they mentioned a White person so the film did not pass the race test. A Million Ways to Die in the West also did not pass the Russo test since there were no LGBTI 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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