The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: American Horror Story: Hotel, “Mommy” – Season 5, Episode 3

In the newest episode of American Horror Story: Hotel, “Mommy,” the Countess seduced Will Drake; a new serial murder was committed outside of the hotel; John was convinced that he was going insane; Donovan was kidnapped by one of the Countess’ old fledglings; Sally helped Iris commit suicide; and Alex served John divorce papers and she discovered that Holden is still alive.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Mommy” passed the Russo and race test but it did not pass the Bechdel test.

There were three LGBTI characters in “Mommy” (the Countess, Ramona and Will), and they all passed the Russo test. And how exactly did the Countess, Ramona and Will pass the Russo test? Well, they all passed this test because 1) they’re LGBTI and they were in the episode 2) because none of them were solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., the Countess was also defined as being a vampire, Tristian was defined as being a murderer and Will was defined as being rich) and 3) because their removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as they were all part of the main storyline of “Mommy.”

“Mommy” also passed the race test, and the episode passed this test because there was one occasion where two of the four non-White characters who speaking parts in the episode (Ramona, Claudia, Prophet Moses and Detective Hahn) talked to each other without mentioning White people (e.g., Prophet Moses told Ramona that he was ready to be turned).

As to the Bechdel test, named women talked to each other a couple of times in “Mommy,” but because men were always mentioned in their conversations, the episode did not pass the Bechdel test.

*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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