The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Aquarius, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – Season 1, Episode 4

Emma came back home in Aquarius, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and Sam investigated the case of a murdered Black man (whom was a former friend) and a murdered Black teen.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“A Change Is Gonna Come” passed the Bechdel and Russo test but did not pass the race test.

Women barely talked to each other in “A Change Is Gonna Come.” For example, women only talked to each other four times (and on two of those occasions it was Emma and Grace talking to each other) and men were mentioned on all of those occasions save for one – when Grace dropped Emma off at school and talked to her about how they used to have so much fun. However, because there was one instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men, “A Change Is Gonna Come” did pass the Bechdel test.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this test because Charles was in the episode; Charles was important to the plot (e.g., Sam started drinking again because Grace blamed him for Emma’s escape, and Sam redirected his anger at Charles and beat the shit out of the guy); and because Charles wasn’t defined by his sexual orientation (i.e., his sexual orientation wasn’t even a factor in this episode). It should also be mentioned that Ken was in “A Change Is Gonna Come” but that the episode would not have passed if he had been the only LGBTI character in the episode because while he was not defined by his sexual orientation, he was not important to the plot (e.g., he could have easily have been taken out of the plot without much of a change occurring).

As to the race test, “A Change Is Gonna Come” did not pass this test because while there were several non-White characters in the episode who talked, none of the non-White characters ever actually held a conversation with 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.