The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “True Love Never” – Season 2, Episode 7

On Empire, “True Love Never,” Jamal secretly received help from his mom for a new song that he was working on; Lucious struggled to complete his new song with Bre-Z and to accomplish a merger; Andre fought his inner demons and resisted falling into old patterns; Cookie fell further into Laz and his lies; and Hakeem worked on getting Laura into diva shape.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“True Love Never” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

Laura becomes the diva that she needs to be in order to survive.

Women barely talked to each other in “True Love Never.” In fact, women only talked to each other a total of two times in “True Love Never,” but because there was a single instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Tiana taught Laura how to walk), the episode passed the Bechdel test. The episode also passed the Russo and race test.

“True Love Never” passed the Russo test due to the two LGBTI characters (i.e., Jamal and Mimi) that were in the episode. The two (and thus the episode) passed the Russo test because neither of them were solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Jamal was also defined as being a musician and Mimi was defined as being a businesswoman) and because their removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as two of the episode’s storylines revolved around their involvement.

As to the race test, “True Love Never” easily passed this test because there were several occasions where non-White individuals talked to each other without mentioning White people.

*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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