In the newest episode of Awkward., “Short Circuit Party,” Jenna accidentally short circuited her school’s electricity so school was canceled for the day. And what did the students do with their sudden free day? Well, they went down to the beach, of course, and partied the day away.
The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test
“Short Circuit Party” passed the Bechdel test but did not pass the Russo or race test.
There were numerous occasions in “Short Circuit Party” where named women talked to each other and there were several instances where some of these named women both talked to each other and didn’t mention men in their conversations with each other so the episode easily passed the Bechdel test. The episode, in comparison, did not so easily pass the Russo or race test. In fact, “Short Circuit Party” didn’t even pass these other two diversity tests.
“Short Circuit Party” did not pass the Russo test because while there were LGBTI characters (e.g., Tamara, Theo and Cole) in the episode and they were not solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., they were all also defined as being students), none of them were important to the plot of the episode (e.g., Tamara was just Jenna’s sidekick and didn’t really do anything except say a line every once in a while and Theo and Cole were just background characters who said maybe two lines) and they all thus could have been easily removed from the episode without causing too much of a change to occur to the plot of “Short Circuit Party.”
As to why “Short Circuit Party” did not pass the race test, the episode did not pass this test because there was only one non-White actor in the episode who had lines (Erinn Westbrook) so the episode was obviously unable to fulfill the requirements of the race test (i.e., have two or more non-White actors speak to each other without mentioning White people).
*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.