The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

In the newest installment of the Star Wars saga, Rogue One, a young woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is called upon (i.e., forced) by the Rebel Alliance to aid them in their efforts to understand and destroy the Death Star, an Empire weapon that kills planets.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story passes the race test but it does not pass the Bechdel or Russo test.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story(Donnie Yen) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL
Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a former guardian of a Jedi temple, fights off stormtroopers when they attack Jyn in Jedha.

Unlike most of its predecessors, Rogue One has several prominent characters that are played by people of color (Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and Forest Whitaker, for example, play key parts). There are, furthermore, many instances in the film where non-White characters talk to each other (which is uncommon for big franchises – non-White characters never speak to each other in Doctor Strange, Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road, for example) and where non-White individuals talk to each other without mentioning anyone White so Rogue One easily passes the race test.

rogue-one-cast-photo-d23
Jyn, alongside allies, sets off to steal the schematic plans for the Death Star.

As to how Rogue One fares when it comes to other diversity tests like the Bechdel, there are about four women in the film, Jyn, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) and Senator Pamlo (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). Some of these women occasionally speak to each other, and while there are instances where named women talk to just one another, there is never an occasion where named women talk to each other without mentioning men so the film does not pass the Bechdel test.

Rogue One also fails to pass the Russo test, and the film does not pass this diversity test because there are no characters in Rogue One that are ever identified as being LGBTI.

*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.