The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Coin Locker Girl

Coin Locker Girl is a lot of things. It’s gritty, it’s heartbreaking, and at times, it is hopeful. In short, Coin Locker Girl is a film that explores relationships and what it means to be human, and the film explores and accomplishes all of this via Il‑Young (Kim Go‑Eun), a young woman employed by a loan shark.

Il-Young on a job.

Since she was a young child, Il-Young has lived with and worked for a loan shark known as Mother (Kim Hye‑Soo), doing all kinds of odd jobs. Il-Young’s line of work is often illegal, and sometimes brutal, but it is the only life that she has ever known so she doesn’t think much of it. This, however, all changes for Il-Young when she one day encounters a young man named Seok‑Hyun (Park Bo‑Gum).

Il-Young meets Seok-Hyun.

Seok-Hyun is unlike anyone Il-Young has ever known. He is kind, he has dreams and aspirations and he has an unwavering faith in people. Through his influence, Il-Young begins to question her entire way of life, and ultimately, it leads her down a road far more dangerous than the previous – on her own and opposed to Mother.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Coin Locker Girl does not pass the Russo test but it does pass the Bechdel and race test.

Il-Young lends Mother shelter from the unrelenting rain and she keeps her company on a lonely night.

Coin Locker Girl does not pass the Russo test, and it does not pass this test because there are no LGBTI characters in the film. The film does, however, pass the Bechdel and race test.

Il-Young completes one last task for Mother.

Despite having a female lead (Il-Young) and a prominent and incredibly important female supporting character (Mother), the cast of Coin Locker Girl is largely male and there are only two women in the film who have names (Il-Young and Ssong [Lee Soo-Kyung]). Coin Locker Girl, nonetheless, passes the Bechdel test as there are a couple of instances in the film where the two named women in the film talk to each other and they talk to each other without mentioning men.

As to the race test, Coin Locker Girl easily passes this diversity test as the entire cast is Asian and none of the characters ever mention anyone White (i.e., only non-White individuals who never mention White people ever speak in Coin Locker Girl).

*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.