The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Sicario

A bit like Silence of the Lambs, Sicario follows Kate Macy (Emily Blunt), a FBI agent who specializes in kidnapping cases, as she becomes involved in a joint FBI and CIA operation to disable a Mexican drug cartel and she realizes that she is being used by the CIA to legalize illegal procedures.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Sicario passes the race test but it does not pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

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Alejandro, a mysterious man who is aiding the CIA in their efforts to destroy a Mexican drug cartel.

Sicario’s cast is largely White and Latino, yet the topic of race is rarely, if ever, addressed in the film despite the fact that Sicario is about (mostly) White FBI and CIA agents who work to disable a Mexican drug cartel and a Latino man (Alejandro as played by Benicio del Toro) plays a leading role in the film. Sicario, nonetheless, passes the race test, and the film passes this test because there are a couple of instances where non-White individuals talk to each other without mentioning White people. As to Sicario’s inclusion of women and whether or not the film passes the Bechdel test, Sicario does worse on this front and it fails to pass the Bechdel test all together.

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Kate and her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) follow the CIA into a Mexican drug cartel tunnel.

Sicario does not pass the Bechdel test because there are very few women in the film and none of these women ever speak to each other (not to mention that Kate is the only woman in Sicario with a name). Sicario also fails to pass the Russo test, and the film does not pass this test because there are no LGBTI characters in Sicario.

*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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