The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “The Tameness of a Wolf” – Season 2, Episode 13

Cookie was determined to have a happy birthday on Empire, “The Tameness of a Wolf,” but that proved to be difficult to accomplish as her entire family was at odds with one another.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“The Tameness of a Wolf” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

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Jamal steals Freda from his dead and the two record a song.

Named women (of which there were many in “The Tameness of a Wolf”) talked to each other a couple of times in “The Tameness of a Wolf,” and because on some of those occasions named women talked to each other without mentioning men, the episode passed the Bechdel test.

“The Tameness of a Wolf” also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this test because there were two LGBTI characters in “The Tameness of a Wolf,” Jamal and Tiana, and neither of them were solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., they were also defined as being musicians) and because their removals from “The Tameness of a Wolf” would have significantly affected the episode’s plot (they were, after all, important players in the episode’s storylines).

As to the race test, there were many instances where the various non-White individuals that were in “The Tameness of a Wolf” talked to each other and did so without mentioning White people so the episode passed the race test as well.

*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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