LGBT Characters

Sony Pictures Co-Chair Challenges Industry To Drop Gay Slurs And Stereotypes From Movies

amy-pascal-600x250Photo: HollywoodNews

At the LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala, which raised $1 million for homeless LGBT youth, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal made a call-to-action regarding the depiction of LGBT characters in film and television.

The event’s honoree explored the negative imagery seen in gay-centric films:

Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.”

But she also praised films that set a positive example of depicting gay characters:

“Of course, there are great images, too, like the family in The Kids Are All Right. The way the boy in Perks of Being a Wallflower and the middle-aged man in Hotel Marigold and the 75-year-old man in Beginners come out to a better, richer, more fulfilled life. It’s treated as a celebration.

And real credit has to be given to the filmmakers of ParaNorman, Chris Butler and Sam Fell, who had the first gay character in an animated movie, and he was the football hunk and it was totally incidental to the plot.”

She closed her speech with a challenge to the industry to do more:

“Now it’s time for all of us to take that step. Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay just be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…

We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right.

How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.

We can do better and we will do better. We have to. If we just think about that kid in North Dakota, or their parents, we might just do it a little differently.”

(Read her full speech here.)

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  • Kieran

    13 years into the 21st First century and Hollywood (or atleast somebody in Hollywood anyway) is finally talking about portraying gay people in a positive, respectful and dignified light. Better late than never I guess.

  • Derek Williams

    Fine words, and I dare hope someone may finally follow them with fine actions. I don’t usually watch gay themed movies because “the gay” ends up so badly.

    I lead a happy, productive professional life and yet I never see anyone like me in any movie with a gay character. They’re all still portraying LGBT like I was in my self-hatingly suicidal teens.

  • Ganymede

    While I appreciate her intentions, it’s crucial to consider the fact that dramatic films and television are driven by conflict; no-one wants to watch a programme where the characters sit around and talk about how perfect their lives are. Yes, there should perhaps be more LGBT characters whose sexuality is not central to their storyline, but the sad fact is that many people experience difficulty coming out and face prejudice after doing so; ignoring this would deprive many young people with relatable characters. To my mind it is no bad thing to have capable LGBT characters deal with the challenges of their lifestyle and become stronger individuals for it.

  • Cam

    Here’s an idea. Instead of making a big statement publicly like this, why don’t the studios stop fucking telling publicists to keep their clients in the closet or they won’t hire them for roles?


    Very good comment. Although it would be nice to have some gay and lesbian characters in movies who “just happen to be” gay or lesbian, many gays and lesbians can relate to characters who experience turmoil due to their sexual orientation. I suppose that it is the same for racial minorities: it is good to have racial minorities in movies where their race is never an issue (ie. Morgan Freeman as the President in Deep Impact), but there also needs to be movies where racial minorities can explore issues that relate to them (ie. The Color Purple).

  • Lefty

    @Ganymede: Absolutely.

    “Happiness writes white.”

  • viveutvivas

    I think her comments are borderline bigoted:

    “Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…”

    …yes, let’s make our gays heteronormative, let’s make them nice sellouts to our military industrial complex, as opposed to portraying people who are “too gay”, who frighten the straights and threaten our bourgeois middle class social climbing. It’s like saying, let’s fill our white movies and TV programs with token black judges and pretend rac*sm doesn’t exist any more.

    A number of those films she deplores are very good films. The reality is that the truth hurts sometimes.

  • Derek Williams

    @viveutvivas: Looks like you haven’t watched Glee or Priscilla Queen of the Desert or Will & Grace or Another Gay Movie or In & Out recently.

    Aside from portrayals of flamers, most such as Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia show gays as moribly unhappy with tragedy the inevitable result of our “chosen lifestyle”.

    I see no harm in catering to middle ground LGBT, where we don’t have to be normalising anything except ordinariness.

  • Derek Williams

    @viveutvivas: correction (no edit feature on Queerty)

    should of course be

  • balehead

    With her logic/censorship …there should be more “Will and Grace” gays in movies and television….yawn..(Is she trying for a GLAAD award???)

  • viveutvivas

    @Derek, what was wrong with Priscilla? Think carefully and try to answer without being bigoted.

    As for Brokeback, the movie condemns not gayness but a repressive society. What is wrong with that?

  • viveutvivas

    @balehead, oh please, save us from the GLAADs.

  • Derek Williams

    @viveutvivas: Nothing wrong with Priscilla at all (in fact I was orchestrator for the movie btw refer under Music Dept); what’s more I never said there was, didn’t even imply it. My point is that it contains flamers and drag queens who represent a legitimate component of LGBT culture, and thus the movie industry already caters for these stereotypes. Likewise Brokeback – to LGBT who are watching, it does indeed portray a repressive society, but it doesn’t condemn it. That’s up to the viewer to interpret. To a religious zealot with animus against homosexuals, it is just as easy to read it as vindication of their mantra that homosexuality destroys humanity.

    Ultimately, as achieved in movies like The Kids Are All Right, I am hoping to be portrayed as I am, completely ordinary, just like everyone else, not as somehow special because I happen to be a gay man.

  • viveutvivas

    @Derek, well, if you want comedy, as opposed to tragedy, featuring ordinary gay people, there is The Wedding Banquet by the same Ang Lee, and indeed (yawn) Will and Grace.

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