The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Homesman

In The Homesman, three women on the American frontier go mad and they become a danger to themselves and everyone around them. The local community thus decides to ship these women off to a minister’s wife in Iowa and Mary Bee Cuddy, an independent unmarried woman who manages her own farm, is chosen to deliver these women.

Recognizing that she will need help for her journey, Cuddy enlists the help of George Briggs, a drifter whose life she saves. Together, the two set off to Iowa and navigate the harsh terrain while protecting their three charges.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Homesman does not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test.

There are several named women in The Homesman and there are a few occasions where named women speak to each other, but because the named women always mention men in their conversations the film does not pass the Bechdel test. The film also fails to pass the Russo and race test, and The Homesman does not pass these tests because there are no LGBTI characters in the film and because the few non-White characters that do appear in the film do not have speaking parts.

*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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