We could almost cut and paste the story we wrote last year about GLAAD’s annual Studio Responsibility Index, as the 2015 edition suggests that despite great strides being made on TV, in Hollywood films LGBT representation has barely changed at all.
Of the 114 film released by the studios and their specialist divisions in 2014, only 20 of them, or 17.5 percent, included characters GLAAD identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, which was only marginally up from the 16.7% in 2013.
Of the films that did include lesbian, gay or bisexual people, the vast majority were minor characters, with half of them on screen for less than five minutes. They even found that with some of these LGB characters, you’d only know they weren’t straight if you were aware of the sexuality of the person they were based on or read outside reports, as the film itself didn’t mention that fact. They also noted that “most of the inclusive films (65%) featured gay male characters. Less than a third (30%) featured bisexual characters, and about one tenth (10%) featured lesbian characters”.
Once more most of these LGB characters were featured in comedies, with hardly any genre movies (such as action, sci-fi and fantasy movies) being inclusive.
As in 2014, no major movies at all featured transgender characters, although on a vaguely positive note, they noted “fewer overtly defamatory depictions in mainstream film compared to last year, though offensive representations were by no means absent, and were found in films such as Exodus: Gods and Kings and Horrible Bosses 2.”
GLAAD has once more given each studio a grade, and like in 2014 two of them have been judged to be failing. Showing just how little consistency there is, after being given a ‘good’ grade last year, Sony is judged to be failing this year, while Disney, often regarded as one of the more gay-friendly American companies, is also given a failing grade. The House Of Mouse only managed one film that GLAAD (very generously) considered LGBT-inclusive, and that was only because of a blink and you’ll miss it cameo by bisexual star Lady Gaga.
Only Warner Bros. was judged as good, with Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount and Universal all seen as adequate.
The film that was given the most praise by GLAAD was Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, which was judged to be the only studio film “to feature major characters who are openly and unashamedly depicted as LGBT and cast in a positive light.” The organisation was also keen to pour scorn on Jennifer Aniston’s bisexual character Dr. Julia Harris in Horrible Bosses 2, noting she showed, “some of the worst stereotypes about bisexual people.” Both movies were released by divisions of Warner Brothers, showing just how inconsistent things are, especially considering that was the only studio given a ‘good’ grade.
In GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test, which looks for films with at least one identifiably LGBT character, who is defined by more than just his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, and has a significant role in the plot. Out of the 114 movies of all descriptions, only 11 could manage to fulfil all three of those simple criteria.
GLAAD’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis comments, “As television and streaming services continue to produce a remarkable breadth of diverse LGBT representations, we still struggle to find depictions anywhere near as authentic or meaningful in mainstream Hollywood film. The industry continues to look increasingly out of touch by comparison, and still doesn’t represent the full diversity of the American cultural fabric.”
Ellis also notes the complete inconsistency in the studios’ approach, marking that while Warner was given a good grade for its 2014 releases, “They also recently released the comedy Get Hard, one of the most problematic films we have seen in some time. This glaring lack of consistency seems to be common amongst almost every major film studio, showing a need for greater oversight in how their films represent – or don’t represent – significant portions of their audience. Only when they make those changes and catch up to other, more consistently inclusive media portrayals will we be able to say that America’s film industry is a full partner in accelerating acceptance.”
You can read the full 2015 Studio Responsibility Index here.