The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: The Revenant

Inspired by true events, The Revenant tells a tale of loss, survival and revenge via Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman who is betrayed and left to die by his follow huntsmen after he is attacked by a bear.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

The Revenant does not pass the Bechdel, Russo or race test.

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Glass searches for the man who murdered his child and left him (Glass) to die in a shallow grave.

The Revenant is primarily focused on men. As such, it comes as no surprise that there are very few women in the film; that women never speak to each other; that only one of the women has a name (Powaqa as played by Melaw Nakehk’o); and that the film does not pass the Bechdel test (and the film does not pass the Bechdel test because there is only one named women in the film and because women never speak to one another). It is also not very surprising that the film does not pass the Russo test as there are no LGBTI characters in The Revenant. So, is there anything surprising about The Revenant? The answer is yes.

The one astonishing factor about The Revenant (or maybe it’s not all that surprising?) is that it does not pass the race test even though there are several non-White individuals in the film. The reason The Revenant does not pass this diversity test? Because while there are instances where non-White individuals talk to one another, they are few and far between, and on these few occasions, White people are always referenced.

*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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