The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “The Devils Are Here” – Season 2, Episode 1

With Lucious in jail, Cookie attempted a hostile takeover of Empire but encountered some sticky and dangerous problems along the way in the premiere of the second season of Empire, “The Devils Are Here.”

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“The Devils Are Here” passed the Bechdel, Russo and Race test.

There were many named women and non-White people in “The Devils Are Here” and there were several occasions were some of these named women talked to each other without mentioning men and non-White people talked to each other without mentioning White people so “The Devils Are Here” easily passed the Bechdel and race test. “The Devils Are Here” also easily passed the Russo test, and the episode passed the Russo test because there were two LGBTI characters in the episode that met all of the Russo test’s requirements. So which two LGBTI characters passed the Russo test? Well, Jamal and Mimi did, and they passed the Russo test because they are both LGBTI and they were in the episode; because they were not solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Jamal was also a businessman and Mimi was an investor); and because it would have been impossible to remove either of them from the plot without radically changing the episode since the entire episode was about how Mimi was going to help Cookie take over Empire and how she (Mimi) ultimately betrayed Cookie in favor of Jamal and Lucious.

There were two other LGBTI characters, Michael and Miss Lawrence’s character, in “The Devils Are Here,” but they did not pass the Russo test, and they didn’t pass this test because while they are LGBTI and they weren’t solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Michael and Miss Lawrence were also activists), neither were important to the plot and they could have easily have been removed from the episode without causing much to change in “The Devils Are Here.”

*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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