The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Penny Pinchers

A comedy, Penny Pinchers tells the story of Ji‑Woong (Song Joong‑Ki), a guy with absolutely no luck or common sense, and Hong-Sil (Han Ye‑Seul), a woman who goes to extremes to save and attain money.

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Hong-Sil.

Hong-Sil is absolutely obsessed with money. She wants to amass as much as she can as fast as she can, but in order to do so, she needs help. Enter Ji-Woong.

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Ji-Woong.

Ji-Woong is desperate. He is broke as a joke, he has been kicked out of his apartment and he has nowhere to go. In other words, he is the perfect candidate for Hong-Sil’s get rich quick scheme. Hong-Sil thus approaches Ji-Woong, and through some clever lies and tricks on Hong-Sil’s part, the two begin working together and they make some serious money – for better or worse.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Penny Pinchers does not pass the Russo test but it does pass the Bechdel and race test.

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Hong-Sil and Ji-Woong go out on a drive.

Penny Pinchers does not pass the Russo test, and the film does not pass this test because there are absolutely no LGBTI characters in the film. Penny Pinchers does, however, pass both the Bechdel and race test.

There aren’t many women in Penny Pinchers (and of the few that are in the film, maybe three have names) and women rarely ever talk to each other. However, despite how few named women are in the film and how rarely women talk to each other, Penny Pinchers nonetheless passes the Bechdel test as there is one instance where two named women talk to each other and they talk to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Gyung-Joo and another named woman question each other’s identities and they get into a fight).

As to the race test, Penny Pinchers passes this diversity test (and easily so) because the entire cast is Asian and none of the characters ever mention anyone who is White.

*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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