The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “Rise by Sin” – Season 2, Episode 17

The night of the ASAs arrived on Empire, “Rise by Sin,” and the award show was not all peaches and crème. Instead, it was full of hurtful words, discoveries and blood.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Rise by Sin” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

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Leah discovers that the world thinks that she is dead.

A couple of named women appeared in “Rise by Sin” and because there were a couple of instances where some of these named women talked to each other without mentioning men, the episode passed the Bechdel test. “Rise by Sin” also passed the Russo test.

“Rise by Sin” passed the Russo test because there were two LGBTI characters in the episode, Jamal and D-Major, and neither of these characters were solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Jamal and D-major were also defined as being musicians) and their removals from “Rise by Sin” would have significantly affected the episode’s plot as they were both part of the episode’s main plotline (especially Jamal).

As to the race test, there were several instances in “Rise by Sin” where non-White individuals (of which there were several in the episode) talked to each other without mentioning White people so the episode passed this diversity 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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