The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Gotham: Mad City, “Better to Reign in Hell” – Season 3, Episode 1

Gotham’s new season started out strong tonight with “Better to Reign in Hell.”

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Valerie, a new reporter in town, questions Penguin.

In “Better to Reign in Hell,” it was revealed that Gordon had become a bounty hunter and that he was hunting down the Indian Hill patients; that Fish was controlling the Indian Hill patients and that she had some sort of big, mysterious plan up her sleeve; that Barbara and Tabitha had started up a bar; that Selina was working for Fish; that Bruce was back in Gotham after pulling a disappearing act; and that Penguin was hella paranoid when it came to Fish and her plans for Gotham. And when all these characters collided in “Better to Reign in Hell?” The ball started rolling and a new story began as shit hit the fan in major ways.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“Better to Reign in Hell” did not pass the Bechdel test but it did pass the Russo and race test.

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Valerie and Gordon butt heads.

There were many named women in “Better to Reign in Hell” and there were a couple of instances where some of these women talked to each other. Nonetheless, “Better to Reign in Hell” failed to pass the Bechdel test. Why? Because every time named women talked to each other, they either directly or indirectly mentioned men.

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Fish, out and about causing all kinds of trouble and mayhem. 

As to other diversity test like the Russo, “Better to Reign in Hell” passed this test and it passed this test for three reasons. One, because there were two LGBTI characters in the episode – Barbara and Tabitha. Two, because these two women were not solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Barbara and Tabitha were also defined as bar owners and two badass women who could take care of themselves). And three, because they had their own miniature storyline in “Better to Reign in Hell” (which was an ensemble episode) so their removal from “Better to Reign in Hell” would have significantly affected the episode’s plot.

“Better to Reign in Hell” also passed the race test, and the episode passed this diversity test because there were several non-White individuals in “Better to Reign in Hell”; because there were a couple of instances where some of these individuals talked to each other; and because out of the times that non-White individuals talked to each other, there was one occasion where no one White was mentioned (e.g., a Black cop told Fish to give him her hands).

*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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