The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Burning Plain

The Burning Plain stars Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence, and the film explores what happens when two teens become involved after their parents (who had had a love affair with each other) die. Clue – death, children, promiscuity, self-mutilation and secret identities are involved. And obviously, The Burning Plain isn’t exactly a feel good film.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Burning Plain passes the Bechdel and race test but does not pass the Russo test.

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Sylvia wakes after a one-night stand.

There are several named women in The Burning Plain and there are several occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g. Sylvia speaks to her coworkers and customers about work) so the film does pass the Bechdel test. The Burning Plain also passes the race test, and the film passes this test because there are several non-White characters in The Burning Plain who talk to each other without mentioning White people.

As to the Russo test, The Burning Plain does not pass this test because there are no LGBTI characters in the film.

*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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