The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Empire, “What Remains Is Bestial” – Season 3, Episode 3

On Empire, “What Remains Is Bestial,” Jamal struggled with his PTSD; Hakeem acted like a child and lashed out at his ex Tiana; Lucious was determined to make his streaming service a success, no matter what the price; and Andre was slapped with ridiculous and unfair criminal charges.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

“What Remains Is Bestial” passed the Bechdel, Russo and race test.

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Hakeem makes a new track that disses Tiana and her new guy.

There were a few named women in “What Remains Is Bestial,” and while these women hardly ever talked to each other, there was a single instance where two named women talked to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Mama Lyon berated Anika over her mothering skills) so the episode passed the Bechdel test.

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Jamal works with Kitty on a track that will be aired on Empire’s new streaming service.

“What Remains Is Bestial” also passed the Russo test, and the episode passed this diversity test because there were two LGBTI characters, Jamal and Tiana, in “What Remains Is Bestial”; because neither of these characters were solely defined by their sexual orientation (e.g., Jamal and Tiana were also defined as singers); and because if Jamal and Tiana had been removed from “What Remains Is Bestial” the episode’s plot would have been significantly affected (e.g., if Jamal and Tiana had been removed, the plot would have been affected because Jamal had his own storyline and because Tiana and her involvement with a new dude fueled Hakeem’s storyline).

As to how “What Remains Is Bestial” fared when it came to the race test, there were several non-White individuals in the episode and because there were many instances where non-White individuals talked to each other without mentioning anyone White, the episode easily passed the race test.

*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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