The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: How to Get Away with Murder, “I Want You to Die” – Season 2, Episode 7

On How to Get Away with Murder, “I Want You to Die,” Nate was arrested under the suspicion that he had killed his wife (which he had) so Annalise was not only busy with her newest case (i.e., defending a man who had stalked his ex-wife and who may have caused her husband to commit suicide), but she was also busy with getting Nate off of his new charges; Bonnie could no longer deal with Asher; and Oliver setup a date with Phillip.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“I Want You to Die” passed the Russo and race test but did not pass the Bechdel test.

Laurel meets Annalise’s new client.

There were four characters in “I Want You to Die” who were definitively LGBTI, and they all passed the Russo test.

The four characters that passed the Russo test were Annalise, Eve, Connor and Oliver, and they all passed the Russo test because they weren’t solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Annalise and Eve were also defined as being lawyers, Connor was defined as being a law student and Oliver was defined as being a hacker) and because their removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as they all played large and important parts in “I Want You to Die” (e.g., most of the episode was about Annalise trying to put out fires, Eve defending Nate, Oliver trying to lure Phillip and Connor trying to dissuade Oliver from working for Annalise). There was also one other character in “I Want You to Die,” Phillip, who might have been gay, but because it’s not completely clear whether or not he is truly gay (e.g., he could have fabricated his sexual orientation in order to catch Oliver), he is not being treated and reviewed as a LGBTI character.

“I Want You to Die” also passed the race test, and the episode passed this test because of the many times that non-White individuals talked to each other there was one instance where White people weren’t mentioned (e.g., a non-White woman told Nate that he had been served).

As to the Bechdel test, there were several occasions in “I Want You to Die” where named women talked to each other, but because men were always directly or indirectly referenced in these women’s conversations, the episode did not pass the Bechdel 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.

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