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

On American Horror Story: Hotel, “Room Service,” Iris returned to the hotel as a vampire and she wasn’t taking anyone’s shit; John was fired and he was forced to hand over his badge and gun; Liz Taylor’s story was told; and Alex cured a dying child by giving him her blood, and this, in turn, resulted in an entire school full of children being turned into vampires.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Room Service” passed the Bechdel and Russo test but did not pass the race test.

Liz Taylor is confronted by coworkers.

Named women rarely talked to each other in “Room Service,” and when they did talk, they almost always mentioned men. However, there was a single instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., named female employees at a school talked to each other about Halloween) so the episode passed the Bechdel test. The episode also passed the Russo test.

The Countess was in “Room Service” and while she didn’t have much airtime in this episode, she (and thus the episode) passed the Russo test as she is LGBTI and she was in the episode; she was not solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also defined as being a vampire); and her removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as the entire season revolves around her and the episode was largely about Iris returning to the hotel and trying to hide that she is a vampire from the Countess.*****

As to the race test, there were two non-White people in the episode who had speaking parts (Ramona and Babe), but because they never spoke to each other, “Room Service” did not pass the race 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.

*****The Countess made a comment about Liz Taylor’s blood smelling like that of a woman’s and Liz does wear “women’s clothing,” but it’s still not completely clear if Liz is transgender, a crossdresser or if Liz falls somewhere else in the spectrum so Liz is not currently being counted as a LGBTI character.

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