The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “Poor Yorick” – Season 2, Episode 4

On Empire, “Poor Yorick,” Empire and Dynasty were raided by the feds, and in effort to rise above the mess that the FBI had created, Empire and Dynasty set aside their differences and collaborated together on a music video.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Poor Yorick” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

​There were many named women in “Poor Yorick” and while some of these women occasionally talked to each other, they mostly talked about or mentioned men in their conversations. However, there was a single instance in “Poor Yorick” where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Cookie told Mimi to get lost) so the episode passed the Bechdel test. “Poor Yorick” also passed the Russo and race test.

There were two confirmed LGBTI characters in “Poor Yorick” – Michael and Jamal. In the case of Michael, while he was important to the plot of the episode because he and Jamal experienced a shift in their relationship in “Poor Yorick,” he was solely defined as being Jamal’s partner so he (Michael) did not pass the Russo test. Jamal, however, did pass the Russo test as he was not solely defined by his sexual orientation (e.g., he was also a singer) and he was important to the plot as “Poor Yorick” was an ensemble episode and Jamal is a main cast member.

In regards to the race test, “Poor Yorick” passed this test because while there were White people in the episode and White people were occasionally brought up in conversation, most of the cast was non-White so there were several instances where non-White people 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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