The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Gotham, “Tonight’s the Night” – Season 2, Episode 8

On Gotham, “Tonight’s the Night,” there were three separate storylines.

In one storyline, Nygma was disposing of Miss Kringle’s body in the woods when he stumbled across a hunter. He, of course, had to kill the man as he couldn’t afford to have a witness to his crime, and once he had killed the hunter, he had thought his dirty work was done for the night, but then he stumbled across someone most unexpected in the woods, someone familiar.

In the second storyline, Theo did his best to trick Bruce out of Wayne Enterprises. More specifically, Theo told Bruce that if he (Bruce) signed over the company to him (Theo) then he would give Bruce the name of his parents’ killer.

And lastly, in the third storyline, Barbara handed herself over to the cops. This, predictably, was a trap and Gordon fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Tonight’s the Night” passed the Russo test but did not pass the Bechdel or race test.

There were two LGBTI characters in “Tonight’s the Night” – Tabitha and Barbara.

In the case of Tabitha, she barely appeared in “Tonight’s the Night” (e.g., she only had about a minute of airtime). She said a few lines to her brother, she made a comment to Barbara and she shot at Gordon, and overall, the things she said and did weren’t especially important so while she wasn’t solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also defined as being Theo’s sister and as being a criminal), she didn’t pass the Russo test because if she had been removed from the episode, she would not have significantly affected the plot.

As to Barbara, well, she (and thus the episode) passed the Russo test, and she passed this test because she is LGBTI and she was in the episode; because besides being defined by her sexual orientation, she was also defined as being mentally ill and a criminal; and because her removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as a large part of “Tonight’s the Night” revolved around her involvement.

Captain Barnes fires Bullock for disobeying orders.

 In regards to the Bechdel and race test, “Tonight’s the Night” did not pass either of these tests, and the episode did not pass these tests because while there was a single instance where named women talked to each other (e.g., Barbara and Lee talked about Gordon) and non-White individuals talked to each other (Theo and Tabitha talked about Bruce), men and White people, respectively, were mentioned.

*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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