The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: American Horror Story: Hotel, “She Wants Revenge” – Season 5, Episode 9

On American Horror Story: Hotel, “She Wants Revenge,” the Countess not only reunited with Donovan, with whom she hatched a plan, but she also reunited with Natacha and her (the Countess’) true love Valentino. And all of this happened whilst she married Will Drake.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“She Wants Revenge” did not pass the Bechdel test but it did pass the Russo and race test.

AHS-HOTEL-s5e9
Ramona attempts to murder the Countess.

Women talked to each other a couple of times in “She Wants Revenge,” and on only one of those occasions, women who had names talked to each other (e.g., Ramona talked to her mom about Ramona’s dad). However, the episode did not pass the Bechdel test because in that one instance that named women talked to each other, men were mentioned.

“She Wants Revenge” did pass the Russo test, and the episode passed this test because four of the five LGBTI characters that were in “She Wants Revenge” passed the Russo test. The four LGBTI characters that passed the Russo test in “She Wants Revenge” were the Countess, Ramona, Drake and Natacha and they passed this test because they weren’t solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., the Countess was also defined as being a cunning conwoman, Ramona was defined as being a daughter, Drake was defined as being a fashion designer and Natacha was defined as being a material girl) and because their removal from the plot would have significantly affected the plot as “She Wants Revenge” largely had to do with their relationships with each other. The one LGBTI character in “She Wants Revenge” who did not pass the Russo test was Liv, and she did not pass this test because while she wasn’t solely defined as being LGBTI, if she had been removed from “She Wants Revenge,” the plot of the episode wouldn’t have been significantly affected (and yes, she did serve as a witness to the Countess and Drake’s wedding but anyone could have replaced her).

“She Wants Revenge” also passed the race test, and the episode passed this test because there were a couple of occasions where non-White individuals talked to each other without mentioning White people (Ramona talked to her a parents a couple of times without ever 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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