The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Deadpool

Deadpool, which totes itself as being edgy and “self-aware,” is a Marvel film about Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a mercenary turned superhero.

Wade and his finance Vanessa.

Wade Wilson was an ordinary jackass mercenary. He drank, he threatened people (and occasionally maimed and killed), he made constant smartass remarks and he didn’t give much of a shit about anything. He became extraordinary, however, once his dormant mutant genes were activated due to prolonged torture.

Wade after his dormant mutant genes have been activated

Once extraordinary, Wade was pissed. His transformation had come at the cost of his looks (i.e., his entire body was badly scared due to his awakened mutant genes) which severely affected his love life (i.e., he had a fiancée but he was too afraid to return to her because he thought she would reject him due to his altered appearance). Wade, however, held out hope for his love life as he had reason to believe that Ajax, the man responsible for his transformation, could restore his original appearance. With that knowledge in mind, Wade went after Ajax, determined to exact revenge and to make Ajax restore his (Wade’s) original appearance.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Deadpool is a fairly typical Marvel film – the lead is played by a White man, there are extremely few women and non-White individuals in the film (and the non-White individuals and women who are in the film are either extras, tropes and/or they only exist because they further and/or add depth to the White male lead’s storyline) and there are absolutely zero LGBTI characters. It should thus come as no surprise that the film also fails to pass any of the diversity tests.

Wade receives aid in his quest for vengeance from Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

There are four women in Deadpool – Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Angel Dust (Gina Carano), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Al (Leslie Uggams) – and the film fails to pass the Bechdel test because none of these women ever have a conversation with one another. Deadpool also fails to pass the Russo and race test.

Deadpool doesn’t pass the Russo test for obvious reasons – there are no LGBTI characters. The film fails to pass the race test because while there are a few non-White individuals in the film (e.g., Al and some extras), there is never an instance where two or more non-White individuals even talk to one another let alone speak with one another without mentioning White people.

*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.