The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Awkward., “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” – Season 5, Episode 11 and 12

Jenna and Matty were having the best of times in the midseason finale of Awkward., “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go,” but once graduation day arrived, things started to fall apart. Namely, Matty and Sadie were banned from taking part in their graduation ceremony and Jenna learned that Matty was only going to be in town for one more day before he left for college.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” passed the Bechdel and Russo test but did not pass the race test.

Jenna’s graduating class stands up against the school’s administration and they demand that Matty and Sadie be allowed to walk.

“The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” was chock-full of named women who spoke to each other and because there were two instances where named women talked to each other without directly or indirectly referencing men (e.g., Val told Sadie not to ruin her [Val’s] big day and Val gave Jenna some life advice), the episode passed the Bechdel test. “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” also passed the Russo test.

“The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” passed the Russo test because all three of the LGBTI characters in the episode, Tamara, Theo and Cole, were not solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., they were all also defined as being high school graduates) and because their removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot (e.g., Tamara’s removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot because she had her own storyline in “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” and Theo and Cole’s removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as they had a hand in two major plot points in “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” – e.g.,  they inspired Jenna to fight for Sadie and Matty’s inclusion in the graduation ceremony and they helped Sadie broadcast her graduation speech).

As to the race test, “The Graduates/Holding on and Letting Go” did not pass this test, and the episode did not pass this test because there was only one non-White person (Sergio) who had a speaking part.

*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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