The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “Death Will Have His Day” – Season 2, Episode 11

In the returning episode of Empire, “Death Will Have His Day,” Lucious, Cookie, Jamal and Andre were in an uproar. The four couldn’t stand the thought of Camilla controlling Empire, and in an effort to take back what was theirs’s, they banded together and fought for their company.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Death Will Have His Day” did not pass the Bechdel test but it did pass the Russo and race test.

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Cookie confronts Hakeem.

While there were several named women in “Death Will Have His Day” and there were several instances where some of these named women talked to each other, “Death Will Have His Day” did not pass the Bechdel, and the episode did not pass this test because whenever named women talked to each other, men were mentioned. As to the Russo and race test, however, “Death Will Have His Day” did pass these diversity tests.

There were two LGBTI characters in “Death Will Have His Day,” Henthrop and Jamal, and “Death Will Have His Day” passed the Russo test because both of these characters were not solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Henthrop was also defined as being a financier and Jamal was defined as being a musician) and because their removal from “Death Will Have His Day” would have significantly affected the episode’s plotline (e.g., their removal from the episode would have significantly affected the plot because they had their own plotline).

“Death Will Have His Day” passed the race test because there were several non-White individuals in the episode and there were many instances where some of the non-White individuals in “Death Will Have His Day”  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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