The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Aquarius, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” – Season 1, Episode 6

On Aquarius, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” someone threw a rock through Brian’s home window and Sam investigated the crime; Brian grew closer to Charles and started to become part of his inner circle; and Charmain investigated the case of a woman who had been attacked and beaten.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” passed the Russo test but did not pass the Bechdel or race test.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” passed the Russo test because Charles was in the episode; he was not defined by his sexual orientation; and because Charles was important to the plot of the episode (e.g., the overarching theme of Aquarius revolves around Charles, and he was important in this specific episode because Brian got closer to him). And the episode did not pass the Bechdel test because even though there was an instance or two where named women talked to each other, men were always mentioned, and the episode did not pass the race test for similar reasons. For example, there was one occasion where non-White characters talked to each other (e.g., Kristin talked to her mom), but because a White person (Brian) was mentioned in their conversation, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” did not pass the race test.

*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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