The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: How to Get Away with Murder, “It’s Called the Octopus” – Season 2, Episode 3

On How to Get Away with Murder, “It’s Called the Octopus,” a picture of Caleb and Catherine kissing was leaked; Annalise took on a client who runs a sex club; and Wes discovered Eggs’ identity.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“It’s Called the Octopus” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

Connor, Laurel, Asher, Wes and Michaela talk about sex and Annalise scolds them.

“It’s Called the Octopus” passed the Bechdel and race test, and the episode (which had several named women and non-White characters in it) passed both of these tests because there were a couple of instances where named women talked to each other without mentioning men and non-White people talked to each other without mentioning White people. The episode also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this test because Annalise, who is LGBTI, was in the episode; because she was not solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also a lawyer); and because her removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as she was an important player in several of the key plots in “It’s Called the Octopus.”*****

*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.

*****Connor and Oliver were also in the episode and while they weren’t solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Oliver was also defined by his illness, HIV, and Connor was a law student), neither Oliver nor Connor’s removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot. Yes, it is true that they had their own sub-plot in “It’s Called the Octopus,” but the parts that they played in the episode were so small that if they had been removed from “It’s Called the Octopus,” not much would have changed.

******This article has been edited since its original publication. A mistake was made in the original post and it was previously stated that “It’s Called the Octopus” did not pass the Russo test.

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