The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Gotham, “Damned If You Do” – Season 2, Episode 1

Gotham returned with a bang tonight (or least tried to) and began its second season with “Damned If You Do.” In the newest installment, viewers were updated on the current status of the show’s main cast and it was revealed that Nygma has had a complete mental break but that no one knows it; that Cobblepot is now in charge of Gotham; that Selina is one of Cobblepot’s lackeys; that Bruce is still trying to crack open his dad’s secret lair; that Barbara is in Arkham; that Bullock now works as a bartender; and that Gordon is now a cop who works on the beat. Oh, plus, a new mastermind villain was introduced, and it was revealed that he wants to unleash all of Arkham’s baddies on the city of Gotham.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Damned If You Do” passed the Russo test but did not pass the Bechdel or race test.

One LGBTI character made an appearance in “Damned If You Do.” That one LGBTI character was none other than Barbara, and in the episode, Barbara didn’t do much except lounge around Arkham, make “friends” with the other patients and threaten Thompkins. However, despite how little she did, it would have been impossible to have removed Barbara from the episode without making the plot significantly change as Gotham is an ensemble show and she is part of the main ensemble; because one of the central plots of “Damned If You Do” revolved around releasing Arkham’s patients and Barbara was a patient; and because Barbara’s storyline actually progressed in this episode. Barbara also wasn’t solely defined by her sexual orientation as she was not only defined by her sexuality but by her status as a patient and as a villain as well so Barbara thus passed all of the Russo test’s requirements, and “Damned If You Do,” consequently, passed the Russo test.

In regards to the Bechdel test, “Damned If You Do” did not pass this test, and the episode did not pass this test because while there were several named women in the episode, there was never an instance where named women only talked to each other (i.e., the only time that named women talked to each other was when Thompkins, Gordon and Essen talked to each other about how Gordon got rid of the commissioner). “Damned If You Do” also failed to pass the race test, and the episode did not pass this test because while there were was one instance where two or more non-White people talked to each other, a White man was mentioned (e.g., Thompkins and Essen talked to each other about Gordon).

*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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