The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Oh My Venus – Season 1, Episode 1

Oh My Venus is a new K-drama starring So Ji-Sub and Shin Min-A. The premise of the drama is that a young woman, Joo-Eun (Shin), who was renowned for her beauty as a high schooler, gains weight as an adult, and because of this, is seen as less than, both by others and by herself. So, in typical K-drama style, instead of fighting fat-shaming and redefining restrictive concepts of beauty and self-worth, Oh My Venus is all about how Joo-Eun’s life has fallen apart because of her weight and how she is trying to lose weight.

As to what actually happened in the first episode of Oh My Venus, the audience was introduced to Joo-Eun who was having a rough time at work and at losing weight. Joo-Eun was stuck working law cases that she didn’t care about, her boss was a jerk and no matter what method she used, she never seemed to be able to lose weight. Matters only got worse in episode 1 for Joo-Eun as her boyfriend of 15 years broke up with her, and she passed out on a crowded plane. The only saving grace, sort of, was that when she passed out on the plane there was doctor on board, but even that came with its own trials. Case in point, the doctor had to rip off Joo-Eun’s clothes in public and after their flight, she kept running into him whenever a humiliating situation arose. The question is? Will Joo-Eun keep on running into the handsome doctor who saved her life?

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Episode 1 passed the Bechdel and race test but did not pass the Russo test.

Women talked to each other several times in episode 1, and of the multiple times that women talked to each other, there was one instance where named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Hyun-Woo told Joo-Eun to buy her eye cream) so the episode passed the Bechdel test. Episode 1 also passed the race test, and the episode passed this test because while there were a couple of White individuals in the episode, the cast was primarily Asian and the only people who ever talked to each other were Asian and White people were rarely mentioned.

As to the Russo test, episode 1 did not pass this test and the episode did not pass this test because there were no LGBTI characters in the episode.

*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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