The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Scream Queens, “Chainsaw” – Season 1, Episode 3

SCREAM QUEENS: Pictured L-R: Nasim Pedrad as Gigi, Jamie Lee Curtis as Dean Cathy Munsch and Emma Roberts as Chanel Oberlin in the "Chainsaw" episode of SCREAM QUEENS airing Tuesday, Sept. 29 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Skip Bolen/FOX.

On the newest episode of Scream Queens, “Chainsaw,” Grace and Zayday investigated Chanel #2’s disappearance; Wes and the rest of his brothers went searching for The Red Devil; and Dean Munsch and Gigi moved into Kappa House.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

 “Chainsaw” passed the Bechdel test, but it did not pass the Russo or race test.

Wes and his brothers search for The Red Devil.

In “Chainsaw,” named women talked to each other on several occasions and there were a couple of  times where some of these named women talked to each other without mentioning men so the episode passed the Bechdel test. The episode did not, however, pass either the Russo or race test.

“Chainsaw” did not pass the Russo test because while Sam, a LGBTI character, was in the episode and she was not solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also a sorority sister, a friend and a college student), she wasn’t all that important to the plot. For example, all Sam did in “Chainsaw” was listen to one of Chanel #3 secrets and agree to be her alibi in the case of future murders. If Sam had been removed from this episode, her removal really wouldn’t have changed much so she (and thus the episode) failed to pass the Russo test.

As to the race test, “Chainsaw” did not pass this test because the two times that non-White people talked to each other, they mentioned White women (e.g., Denise talked to Grace and Zayday about the disappearance of Chanel #2 and Denise accused Zayday of plotting to kill Chanel).

*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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