The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Aquarius, “Everybody’s Been Burned/The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” – Season 1, Episode 1

Aquarius, the show based off of Charles Manson’s criminal activities, premiered the other night and it was long, somewhat boring and it somehow managed to have at least one, if not two, rape scenes (e.g. Kenneth was raped and Emma was involved in a weird orgy/rape scene) in its very first episode.

In the premiere, a lawyer’s (Kenneth Karn’s) daughter Emma went missing. However, despite the fact that Emma had been missing for at least a couple of days, Kenneth refused to report her as missing as he was running for political office. Kenneth’s wife thus took matters into her own hands, and she contacted her ex-boyfriend Sam Hodiak (who was a cop) and asked him to track down her daughter.

Sam gladly took up the case of Emma, and along the way, he enlisted the help of Brian Shafe, an undercover cop. Together, Sam and Brian worked on finding Emma, and what the two discovered made them realize that something much larger than a runaway teenager was afoot.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Everybody’s Been Burned/The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” passed the Russo test but did not pass the Bechdel or race test.

Both Kenneth and Charles are bisexual (though Charles’ sexuality is somewhat suspect as he’s more of the type of person who uses sex as a tool despite sexual preferences); both were pivotal to the plot of the episode (e.g. the plot of the episode was that Kenneth’s daughter was kidnapped by Charles); and neither were defined by their sexual orientation (e.g. Kenneth’s sexuality didn’t become a factor until the very end of the episode, and while sex was a tool that Charles used, it didn’t define him) so “Everybody’s Been Burned/The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” passed the Russo test.

As to the Bechdel and race test, “Everybody’s Been Burned/The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” failed to pass both tests, and the episode did not pass these tests because while there were named women and non-White characters in the episode, named women never talked to each other and non-White characters never talked 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 show 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 show 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 television. 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 show.

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