The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “Fires of Heaven” – Season 2, Episode 3

On Empire, “Fires of Heaven,” Lucious tried to sign Bre-Z; Jamal found himself frustrated with his music and he tried to consult with Cookie; Andre desperately sought his father’s forgiveness and told him that Rhonda is pregnant; Hakeem produced a Latina group; and Cookie crashed Lucious’ party and used his celebration to promote her company.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Fires of Heaven” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

“Fires of Heaven” passed the Bechdel test, and the episode passed this test because there was one instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Cookie told Porsha to stop moping off her [Cookie’s] sweat). “Fires of Heaven” also passed the Russo and race test.

“Fires of Heaven” passed the Russo test because Jamal, who is LGBTI was in the episode; because he was not solely defined by his sexual orientation (e.g., he was also defined by his identity as a musician); and because his removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as he is part of the main cast and because he had his own storyline in “Fires of Heaven.”

As to the race test, “Fires of Heaven” passed this test because there were several non-White actors in the episode who talked 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.

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