Finally, GLAAD Makes a Bechdel Test For Gay Visibility

8.21.2013

By Samantha Henderson

'Studio Responsibility Index' evaluates 101 big studio films from 2012

Movie realists have long relied on the Bechdel Test to check whether a movie properly represented female characters, but thus far we have yet to see an organized evaluation of LGBT characters and topics in film. So finally, GLAAD took the first step with the Studio Responsibility Index, which is by no means comprehensive in looking at all films—it just dissects 101 movies from 2012 that were released by the "Big Six", 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers.

How did they fare? Only 14 films contained gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters. No transgender characters in sight. And less than half of those films pass the Vito Russo test, a Bechdel-inspired set of criteria named for GLAAD-co-founder and film Historian Vito Russo. Only three comic-con adaptation-style films were counted but even so, Cloud Atlas was initially created outside the studio system, and the out gay news anchor Thomas Roberts, featured in The Avengers, made a startlingly brief appearance, one most viewers probably missed. 

Here's the criteria they need to pass the Vito Russo test:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters).
  • The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.

Read the full report here on GLAAD's website.

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