The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Shadows in the Palace

Shadows in the Palace is a Korean period film that tells the story of a court nurse (Park Jin-Hie) who investigates the mysterious death of a maid (Seo Young‑Hee).

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Shadows in the Palace passes the Bechdel and race test but does not pass the Russo test.

Chun‑Ryung interrogates a maid.

Almost every single character in Shadows in the Palace is female. Thus, almost every conversation that occurs in the film occurs between women though not all of the women who speak to each other have names and men are often mentioned in the women’s conversations. That being said, however, there are multiple instances where named women do speak to each other without mentioning men so the film does pass the Bechdel test. The film also (easily) passes the race test since the entire cast is Asian and White people are never mentioned by any of the actors.

In regards to the Russo test, Shadows in the Palace comes nowhere close to passing this test since 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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