The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Train to Busan

Train to Busan is a zombie movie that centers around hedge-fund manager, and all around problematic asshole, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) and his estranged daughter Su-An (Kim Su-Ahn).

A virus outbreak occurs on the train to Busan.

Seok-Woo is a self-centered workaholic, plain and simple. He’s always out for himself and he barely spends anytime with his young daughter Sun-An. It thus comes as no surprise that when Sun-An’s birthday comes around, she wants to spend the day with her mother (Seok-Woo’s ex-wife who lives in Busan) instead of in Seoul with her father. What is surprising, however, is that Seok-Woo not only grants Sun-An’s wish to see her mother, but he actually boards a train to Busan with Sun-An.

Seok-Woo carries his daughter away from infected passengers and tries to keep her safe.

Once on the train for Busan, Seok-Woo quickly learns that an unknown and deadly virus has broken out in South Korea and that there are infected passengers on board the train. Train to Busan henceforth becomes a tale of classism and morality and it brings into question what one is willing to do in order to survive.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Train to Busan does not pass the Russo test but it does pass the Bechdel and race test.

The passengers quickly evacuate their train when they stop at a station but they soon realize that they are no more safe at the station than they were on the train.

In Train to Busan, there are zero LGBTI characters. The film thus obviously fails to meet any of the Russo test’s criteria so it does not pass this particular diversity test. Train to Busan does, though, pass the Bechdel and race test.

Back on board the train but separated from their loved ones, Sang-Hwa, Seok-Woo and Young-Gook fight through hoards of zombies in order to rescue their families.

There aren’t a ton of women in Train to Busan, but of the women that are in the film, there are a few who have names and there are a couple of instances where some of these women talk to each other. Out of the very few (maybe three or four) times that named women talk to each other, there is a single instance where men are not mentioned (e.g., Sun-An offers an older named woman a seat in the train), and because of this instance, Train to Busan passes the Bechdel test.

As to how Train to Busan passes the race test, the film’s entire cast is Asian and none of the characters ever mention White individuals so there are many instances where non-White individuals talk to each other without mentioning anyone White.

*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.