The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare, “Chapter 1” – Season 6, Episode 1

In the first episode of American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare, “Chapter 1,” Shelby and Matt moved from L.A. to a house out in middle of the country. Once there, the two began to experience a bizarre series of events that no one could explain.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Chapter 1” did not pass the Russo test but it did pass the Bechdel and race test.

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Some locals try to outbid Matt and Shelby for a house.

So far, there are no identifiable LGBTI characters in the new American Horror Story so “Chapter 1” did not pass the Russo test. The episode did, however, pass the Bechdel and race test.

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While her husband is away, Shelby spends some relaxing time out in a hottub. 

Only two named women appeared in “Chapter 1,” Lee and Shelby. The episode, nonetheless, passed the Bechdel test because there were a couple of times where they talked to each other, and out of those instances, there was a single occasion where they did not mention men (e.g., when Lee and Shelby went into the basement, Shelby asked Lee if she had her gun).

In regards to how “Chapter 1” passed the race test, there were a couple of non-White individuals (most, if not all, of whom were Black) in the episode and there was a single instance where some of these individuals talked to each other without mentioning anyone White (e.g., Lee’s husband, who was Black, told Lee that he wanted a divorce).

*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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