The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Gotham, “Mad Grey Dawn” – Season 2, Episode 15

Penguin was reunited with his long, lost father on Gotham, “Mad Grey Dawn,” and Gordon investigated a series of crimes that Nygma staged.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Mad Grey Dawn” passed the Russo test but it did not pass the Bechdel or race test.

Ben-McKenzie-and-Donal-Logue-in-Gotham2
Gordon investigates a theft staged by Nygma.

There were two LGBTI characters in “Mad Grey Dawn,” Tabitha and Barbara, and while neither of these women were in the episode for very long, “Mad Grey Dawn,” nonetheless, passed the Russo test. The reason? Because Barbara passed all of the Russo test’s requirements, and she wasn’t solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also defined as being a coma patient) and her removal from “Mad Grey Dawn” would have significantly affected the plot (e.g., Barbara’s addition to “Mad Grey Dawn” was important and her removal would have thus significantly affected the plot because she woke up in “Mad Grey Dawn,” foreshadowing things to come further on in the series).*****

As to the Bechdel test, “Mad Grey Dawn” did not pass this diversity test, and the episode did not not pass this test because there were no named women in the episode (e.g., Lee, Selina, Ivy, Tabitha and Barbara were in the episode) or because there were no instances where named women talked to each other (named women talked to each other once in “Mad Grey Dawn”), but because in the one instance that named women talked to each other, they mentioned a man (e.g., Selina and Ivy discussed Bruce).

“Mad Grey Dawn” also failed to pass the race test, and the episode did not pass this test because while there were a couple of non-White individuals in the episode, there was never an instance where two or more non-White individuals talked to one another.

*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.

***** If Tabitha had been the only LGBTI character in “Mad Grey Dawn,” the episode would not have passed the Russo test because while she was not solely defined by her sexual orientation (e.g., she was also defined as being a sister), her removal from “Mad Grey Dawn” would not have significantly affected the episode’s plot as her part in “Mad Grey Dawn” did not add to the episode or the overall series’ plot.

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