The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “Sinned Against” – Season 2, Episode 9

All kinds of things were going on on Empire, “Sinned Against.” Just to name a few, Cookie’s sister Carol went missing and Cookie and Candace searched for her on the streets of Philadelphia; Hakeem worked on preparing Lyon Dynasty for the Cookout; Anika was determined to make Hakeem hers; Andre and Rhonda received a house from Lucious; Lucious revealed Laz’s true identity; and Jamal worked on a song with a famous artist. So yeah, just a few things went down in “Sinned Against.”

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Sinned Against” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

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Jamal makes a song with Skye Summers.

There were a couple of named women in “Sinned Against” and a few instances where some of the named women talked to each other. Of the couple of times that named women talked to each other, there was one instant where men weren’t mentioned (e.g., Cookie, Candace and Pepper talked about jail) so “Sinned Against” passed the Bechdel test. The episode also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this test because the one LGBTI character in the episode, Jamal, was not solely defined as being LGBTI (e.g., he was also defined as being a musician) and because his removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot as he had his own storyline.

As to the race test, “Sinned Against” also passed this test, and the episode passed this test because there were multiple 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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