Hollywood has a reputation as a enclave of gay-loving liberals. However, while that may be true of many of the people involved in the mainstream film industry, the level of LGBTQ in Hollywood movies has made very little progress over the past decade, and GLAAD’s just released Studio Responsibility Index suggests that 2017 saw a marked regression. Of the 109 releases by the seven largest movie studios in 2017, just 14, or 12.8 percent, included LGBTQ characters. That’s down from 23 last year and ties for the smallest number of movies including representation since GLAAD starting tracking in 2012.
All of the major studio were graded as Poor, or Insufficient, while Warner Brothers was seen to be Failing. No studio has ever been rated Excellent since the Studio Responsibility Index started. GLAAD noted that of the films that included some sort of LGBTQ representation or touched on LGBTQ issues, that included films where queer people or situations were the butt of the joke (such as Baywatch), where it was barely visible (such as Beauty & The Beast – although GLAAD did see the inclusion of Lefou being gay as a step in the right direction), and where it’s purely a brief plot device (such as Downsizing).
There are also some, such as Thor: Ragnarok, which the movie include characters who are LGBTQ in the comics (notably Valkyrie and Korg), but where the film makes virtually no reference to it at all. Even though Valkyrie actor Tessa Thompson has said the character is bisexual and scenes were filmed that made this clearer, they didn’t make it into the final movie.
Perhaps most shockingly, not a single studio release included a transgender character in 2017, despite indie distributors having Oscar-winning success with the likes of A Fantastic Woman. GLAAD did note however some progress with racial diversity, as for the first time over 50% of LGBTQ characters were people of colour, compared to under 30% in 2016 and 2015.
From their findings, GLAAD noted that, ‘Studios must do better to include more LGBTQ characters, and construct those stories in a way that is directly tied to the film’s plot,’ and that, ‘Filmmakers should work to reflect the full diversity of our community, and include the long-sidelined stories of those living at the intersections of many identities.’ They also particularly felt that with comic book movies being such a dominant force in mainstream film and popular culture – and with a strong record of LGBTQ diversity on the page – studios ought to do far better in terms of queer representation on screen, especially when dealing with canonically LGBTQ characters.
President & CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, says she wants Hollywood to so much better, writing in her introduction to the Studio Responsibility Index that, “GLAAD is calling on the seven major film studios to make sure that 20% of annual major studio releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50% of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024. This is the first step in creating a barometer that will move them from a “Poor” or “Failing” rating, to a “Good” or “Excellent” one.”
Although this may not seem like an unreasonable request, with Hollywood making little progress in LGBTQ representations overall, getting 50% of film to include queer characters by 2014 may be a tough ask. Ellis does note hopeful signs though, saying, “We have started to see some welcome progress in 2018 – major studio films like teen rom-com Love, Simon (Fox 2000), sci-fi action Annihilation (Paramount), and raunchy teen comedy Blockers (Universal) all opened in thousands of theaters across the country and included central queer characters who have agency over their own stories.”
If you’d like to read the full GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index, you can find it here.