The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

There has been an outpouring of superhero films in the past decade. Out of these many movies, most are just okay and they are often unfocused and fail to achieve an emotional connection with its audience. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which has just been released, deviates from this norm as it succeeds in being both entertaining and establishing an emotional connection through its focus on family and friendship.

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In the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Peter (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) are like a family unit. They live and work together and bicker at any and every opportunity. Their family bond, however, is quickly put to the test once Rocket makes an enemy of an entire planet; Peter’s long-lost father suddenly shows up; and the team is separated.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 passes the Bechdel test but it does not pass the Russo or race test.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s cast is primarily male (not exactly surprising), and while the men take up a lot of screen time, a couple of women also appear and play prominent parts in the film. Case in point, a woman plays one of the film’s baddies, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki); Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a new character, aides the Guardians and saves their hides; and Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are not only involved in the main plotline but they also have their own subplot. So, that being said, does Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pass the Bechdel test?

Women talk to each other a couple of times in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Out of these instances, there are two or three occasions where named women talk to each other without mentioning men so the film passes the Bechdel test. And the instances where named women talk to each other without mentioning men? When Gamora and Nebula talk to each other on a couple of different occasions about their past and how they have fought and opposed one another.

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In regard to how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 fares when it comes to other diversity tests like the Russo, none of the characters in the film are ever identified as being LGBTQIA. The film thus fails to pass the Russo test.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also fails to pass the race test, and the film does not pass this test because 1) while there are two non-White actors in Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldana and Pom Klementieff, and 2) there is a time or two where their characters interact, White individuals are always mentioned whenever Gamora and Mantis speak to one another. *****

*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, queer, asexual 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.

***** Another factor to consider is that there are no non-White humans in the film and that the only people of color in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Saladana and Klementieff) play non-humans and wear full body makeup and prosthetics.

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