The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Supergirl, “Pilot” – Season 1, Episode 1

The very first episode of Supergirl premiered this week, and while it was full of cheesy eye-roll moments and cringe-inducing attempts at feminism, it was nonetheless enjoyable to watch.

In the first episode, we were introduced to Kara, the cousin of Superman. Kara was originally sent to Earth to guard and protect her cousin Kal-El, but by the time that she reached Earth, he had already grownup and was no longer in need of her. Armed with no mission or purpose, Kara decided to lead an ordinary human life and she wound up working as a minion for Cat Grant, a media mogul, fetching coffee and paperwork. However, Kara quickly became disillusioned and realized that she didn’t want to be ordinary so when an opportunity arose that forced her to do the extraordinary, she took it and her life was forever changed as she finally became who she was always meant to be – a superhero.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Pilot” passed the Bechdel test but did not pass the Russo or race test.

Kara and her new co-worker James Olsen talk to their boss Cat Grant.

There were a few named women in “Pilot” and there were a couple of occasions where some of these named women talked to each other. Men were almost always mentioned when the named women in the episode talked to each other, but because there was a single instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Alex told Kara to change), the episode passed the Bechdel test. The episode did not, however, pass either the Russo or race test, and “Pilot” did not pass these tests because there were no LGBTI characters in the episode and because the handful of non-White people in the episode never spoke to each other.

*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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