The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: It Follows

It Follows could have easily have been be a stupid, roll-your-eyes this is so cheesy horror film, but it is instead a rare horror and suspense film where there aren’t constant cheap attempts to scare (i.e. something popping out at you), and the primary focus is on people, their relationships with each other and their confusion and terror.

It Follows is about a young, middle-class, White ciswoman named Jay who lives an ordinary and uneventful life. Her ordinary and mundane life, however, is turned upside once she has sex with her new boyfriend Hugh.

Jay is informed by Hugh that now that she has had sex with him a creature that can take on any form (the face of a stranger or a loved one) will be following her, and she must never let it touch her. He explains that he doesn’t know what the creature is or where it came from but that it will follow her until it kills her or until she has sex with someone else. In the case that she does sleep with someone, the creature will then follow this new individual and try to kill them instead. At first Jay doesn’t believe him, but once the creature starts pursuing her she has no choice but to believe him and she wrestles her friends together for their help to evade and defeat this creature.

Because this film is so focused on the characters themselves, what they are experiencing and their dynamics with each other this film is effectively scary, but while the film succeeds in telling an interesting and compelling story, it fails in representing people of color (which is especially strange since the film is set in a city right next to Detroit) and LGBTI individuals. For example, only one non-White person makes a brief appearance, and none of the victims of the creature are non-White or LGBTI.  This is most certainly odd when one considers the fact that non-White and LGBTI individuals like to have sex just as much as any White and/or heterosexual individual. This begs the question, how is it that none of the many victims of this creature are non-White or LGBTI? It can only be assumed that the lack of portrayal of non-White and LGBTI characters is due to a biased and privileged White heterosexual director/writer (or the team behind producing and releasing the film) as it seemingly never occurred to him (them) to include non-White and LGBTI characters.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

It Follows passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

The film passes the Bechdel test as there are at least two occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men (there are two occasions where Jay talks to her sister and her girlfriend without mentioning dudes). The film does not pass the Russo or race test because there are no LGBTI characters, and non-White characters never talk to each other.

*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.