The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Force Majeure

Force Majeure examines the gendered scripts we learn through its story about a Swedish family’s vacation.

Ebba and Tomas take their two children, Vera and Harry, on a skiing trip. One day, when the family is sitting at the ski resort’s open-air restaurant, a controlled avalanche occurs right outside the resort. For a moment, the avalanche looks like it is about to bury the restaurant, and all of the dinners panic and try to escape. Ebba immediately tries to grab her two children, but she is not strong enough to carry them both. She tries to ask for husband’s help, but he is nowhere to be found as he has already left them behind. Luckily, the entire family survives the avalanche as it was not snow that came towards the restaurant but avalanche smoke.

Ebba later tries to confront her husband about his quick abandonment of his family, but he refuses to admit that he ran away, and his refusal to admit the truth quickly starts to tear the family apart.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Force Majeure passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

Force Majeure passes the Bechdel test as there two occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men –when Vera tells Ebba she needs help and when Fanni compliments Ebba’s food.

As to the Russo and race test, Force Majeure does not pass either test since there are no LGBTI characters and there is only one non-White person.

*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.