The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is in a league of its own. The film is a spaghetti western, it is in black and white, it is set in Iran and it is about a young, skateboarding, vampire woman (Sheila Vand) who stalks the streets and preys on men who disrespect women. And while A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night might sound like an outlandish and ridiculous film, it is far from this, and it is instead, a thought-provoking, disquieting, interesting and cinematically beautiful film that redefines the vampire genre.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night passes the race test but does not pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

The entire cast of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is Arab, and while there are a couple of occasions where White people are mentioned by some of the characters, there are still plenty of occasions where non-White (and yes, Arab is an ethnicity and not a race, but since Arabs rarely appear in film, they are being counted as a non-White group) characters talk to each other without mentioning White people so the film passes the race test. The film does not, however, pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night does not pass the Bechdel test because there is only one instance where women actually have a conversation with each other – when the vampire woman talks to Shirin (Ana Lily Amirpour) about Shirin – and in this instance, one of the women doesn’t have a name (e.g., the vampire is never named). And the film does not pass the Russo test because there are no clearly identifiable LGBTI characters in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. And yes, there is one woman in the film who may be transgendered, but because it is not clear whether or not she is a transgender woman or a drag queen, she does not qualify as an LGBTI character (plus, even if she is a transgender character, the film still wouldn’t pass the Russo test because she isn’t important to the plot).

*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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