The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Host

The Host tells the tale of an ordinary lower middle-class Korean family who are faced by the kidnapping of their youngest family member, Hyun-seo, by a mutated monster.

When Hyun-seo’s family learns that she is still alive and has not been killed by the monster, they ban together and are determined to rescue her despite any obstacle. That being said, the family faces a lot of hurdles. They are forced into quarantine, no one will believe that Hyun-seo is alive, they have to escape authorities (multiple times), they have to locate Hyun-seo, and they have to steal Hyun-seo away from the monster. While they are busy dealing with their obstacles, Hyun-seo has to deal with her own set of problems, namely, the monster.

Hyun-seo is stuck in a sewer, she has no means of escape, and she has no food or water. She can only wait for her family and hope that they arrive before the monster kills her. However, once a young boy joins her in the sewer, Hyun-seo is forced to do more than wait when there seems to be no rescue in sight.

When I first started watching the film, my initial impression was that The Host would primarily be about the girl and Nam-joo, so I was sorely disappointed when Hyun-seo died (especially since she proved to be such an interesting character and was so easy to root for), that Nam-joo didn’t play a large part in the film, and Nam-joo missed so many opportunities to kill the monster (despite the fact that she was a professional archer). Yes, it was nice to see a little girl of color (Hyun-seo) be brave, courageous, tough and resourceful, but the film would have been better if she had been brave, courageous, tough and resourceful; she hadn’t died; and she had either rescued herself, or she had rescued herself with the help of her aunt.

If Hyun-seo had survived and rescued not only herself but the other child as well this would have been pretty monumental as the film would have not only have been enjoyable to watch and inspiring for little girls, but it would have also have been one of the few instances where a young girl, let alone a girl of color, was both important to the plot and was very capable and in charge of her own destiny. It also would have made a lot more sense if the film had been about a showdown between Nam-joo and the monster. She was, after all, a professional archer while the rest of her family were just ordinary citizens who had no exceptional physical prowess or special skills.

That being said, a film can’t be everything to everyone, and the film did demonstrate that being brave and capable doesn’t always equal success (e.g. Hyun-seo) and that teamwork can save people (i.e. you don’t have to be a lone wolf to kill the big baddie).

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Host passed the race test but did not pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

The film passed the race test as most of the cast was Asian and there were many instances where non-White characters talked to each other without mentioning White people. The Host did not pass the Bechdel or Russo test because named women never talked to each other without mentioning men and there were no LGBTI characters.