The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Awkward., “Say No to the Dress” – Season 5, Episode 9

On Awkward., “Say No to the Dress,” Jenna and Tamara got ready for prom and seemingly one bad thing after another kept happening – e.g.,  their hair was an 80’s prom disaster, Jenna’s first and second dress were ruined, Tamara was unhappy that she didn’t get to go to prom with Adam and Matty didn’t show up to prom.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Say No to the Dress” passed the Bechdel and Russo test but it did not pass the race test.

Named women talked to each other a couple of times in “Say No to the Dress” and because there were a couple of occasions where men weren’t mentioned when some of the named women talked to each other, the episode passed the Bechdel test. “Say No to the Dress” also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this test due to Tamara.

“Say No to the Dress” passed the Russo test because of Tamara because Tamara is a LGBTI character and she was in the episode; because besides being defined by her sexual orientation, Tamara was defined as being a student and a friend; and because her removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as she played a large part in “Say No to the Dress.” Theo, a LGBTI character, was also in “Say No to Dress” and while he was not defined by his sexual orientation (at all), he did not pass the Russo test because his removal from the episode would not have significantly affected the plot as he only made a brief appearance (seriously, he was only in the episode for maybe 20 seconds) in the episode as Lissa’s prom date.

In regards to the race test, “Say No to the Dress” did not pass this test, and the episode did not pass this test because there was only one non-White person in the episode (Gabby) and she never even spoke.

*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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