The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is an impeccable example of storytelling that evokes the memories of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Like Their Eyes Were Watching God, the storytelling is rich, compelling, full of symbolism, and it is told through the somewhat unreliable perspective of a young Black girl. However, in this version, the audience doesn’t get to see the girl grow up, or at least, not in the traditional aging sense.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is about Hushpuppy, a young girl who lives with her father in the Bathtub. Hushpuppy does not attend a traditional school, and her father has no official job, no healthcare, and he does not grocery shop. Instead, the two live off of the land like the rest of their community, and Hushpuppy learns practical life lessons from her father and local teacher.

Hushpuppy enjoys her life, and all is going all right until her father grows ill and a storm hits their community. From this point forward, Hushpuppy has to endure several hardships as she comes-of-age in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Beasts of the Southern Wild passes the race test, but it does not pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

The film passes the race test as there are many instances where non-White characters talk to each other without mentioning White people since the film primarily revolves around two Black characters (Hushpuppy and her father Wink). The film does not pass the Bechdel or Russo test, however, since named women never talk to each other without mentioning men, and there are 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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