In its first ever study of LGBT representation on film, GLAAD finds the major studios are really slipping on their gay pimpin’. According to their Studio Responsibility Index, only 14 of the 101 releases from major studios contained lesbian, gay or bisexual characters, with nary a transgender representation in sight.
“As a major influence in American culture and one of our nation’s largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change,” said GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz. “Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios’ part. Whether it’s an action hero or a supporting character, moviegoers should be able to see LGBT people as integral players in the stories told by leading Hollywood studios.”
Additional findings from the study include:
- More than half of those inclusive films (55.6%) featured gay male characters, while another 33% featured lesbian characters and 11% contained bisexual characters. Male characters represented 63% of LGBT images on screen, while female characters made up just 37%
- Of the 31 different characters counted (some of whom were onscreen for no more than a few seconds), 26 were white (83.9%), four were Black/African-American (12.9%) and one was Latino (3.2%). There were no Asian-Pacific Islander or recognizably multi-racial LGBT characters counted.
- The most common place to find LGBT characters in the major studios’ 2012 releases was in comedies, where nine of the 24 comedies released (37.5%) were inclusive. By comparison, 34 genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) made up the majority of the 2012 releases, though only three (8.8%) of those included any LGBT characters. Additionally, only one of 21 dramas (4.7%) and one of four documentaries (25%) were inclusive, while there were no LGBT characters in any animated or family-oriented films from the ‘Big Six.’
The study comes on the heels of an IndieWire article on the death of the mainstream gay movie. Compared to the 90s, when “48 films with significant LGBT characters grossed over $1 million at the box office,” the previous decade had only 20 films to cross that mark; Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited is only the fifth film since 2010 to do so.
The article offers a number of reasons for the steep decline, but the most likely is the decline of the movie industry itself, coupled with the subsequent rise of television, which has a far better track record for LGBT portrayals, as noted by GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report.
The actual representation of LGBT characters on film, the few that are remaining, has also been addressed by the SRI’s “Vito Russo Test” — named after GLAAD co-founder and author of the seminal cinematic tome, The Celluloid Closet. The test includes criteria that determine the quality of an LGBT character’s representation, for instance: “the character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Only 6 of the 14 studio films featuring LGB characters actually passed the Vito Russo Test, including Cloud Atlas, Pitch Perfect, Rock of Ages and The Five Year Engagement.
You can read the full GLAAD 2013 Studio Responsibility Index here.