If you're familiar with the Bechdel Test, which looks at how films treat female characters (Is there more than one? Do they talk to each other about something other than men?), it may surprise you to know that there has never been any similar system looking at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters. Now US campaigning organisation GLAAD has launched the Vito Test so anyone can make their own assessment. It has also issued - for the first time ever - a ranking of major studios based on how representative their films are.
The Vito Test is named after Vito Russo, whose considerable contribution to film studies was recently explored in the documentary Vito. It requires three things:-
1 The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. 2 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). 3 The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.
GLAAD analysed 101 films released by major studios in 2012 and found that only 14 featured LGB characters, with none featuring transgender characters. Of those 14, only six passed the Vito Test. Cloud Atlas was praised as one of the most inclusive films of the year ut GLAAD note that it began production outside the studio system.
Of the major studios, Fox came out worst, with no films including LGBT characters and one including homophobic jokes. Sony and Universal did best, with four films apiece.