GLAAD Study Finds LGBT Representation In Hollywood Isn’t Getting Any Better
Surprise surprise, Hollywood is still doing a bad job at representing LGBT people on screen. Despite a great year for queer indie films in 2015, major studios are failing to depict quality queer characters, especially LGBT people of color.
GLAAD released their fourth annual Studio Responsibility Index on Monday, and the results are nothing short of depressing. Out of the 126 films released by the seven highest-grossing studios of 2015, only 17.5 percent (22 films total) included characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. That’s the same percentage of 2014 mainstream releases, proving that major studios aren’t doing any better since last year. The report did find that 2015 featured more LGBT characters in films overall, 47 compared to the 28 from mainstream released in 2014. But more characters doesn’t always mean positive depictions or characters with ample screen time.
The only transgender character featured in a mainstream 2015 release is only shown on screen for a few seconds as “a punchline.” Why such offensive treatment of the trans community continues in Hollywood is not only shocking, but unacceptable. Last year featured some of the biggest milestones for the trans community both in television and in larger American culture. The film industry has a lot to catch up on, the GLAAD is one of the organizations actively working to foster such change.
The numbers only reveal so much, though. Each year reviews major studios and hands out ratings based on the “quantity, quality and diversity of LGBT people” shown in their films. A characters may be identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but they still have to pass the Vito Russo test (like the Bechdel test, but with criteria that aims for “multidimensional” portrayals of queer characters. To prove just how bad 2015 was for depicting LGBT people, GLAAD gave out zero “Good” ratings, instead assigning only “Adequate” and “Failing” grades. Warner Bros., Disney and Paramount all received “Failing” grades, the latter two featuring zero LGBT characters last year.
The worst news of the report found a significant in a drop in racial diversity among LGBT characters. While 32.1 percent of the LGBT characters in 2014 mainstream movies were people of color, last year only had 25.5 percent. Of the 47 LGBT characters, only five were Latino, only four were black/African American and only three were Asian or Pacific Islander. Hollywood’s lack of reflecting the rich diversity of queer community is a problem that should be among studios top priorities.
But as bad as things are, GLAAD present Sarah Kate Ellis announced that the organization plans to hold film studios to even higher standards in coming years. In light of the diversity progress that’s been made on TV in everything from Transparent to Orange is the New Black to Sense8, GLAAD hopes their analysis of film’s lacking representation will encourage major studios to improve. The importance of increasing quality depictions of the LGBT community on screen isn’t just about giving queer audiences someone to identify with on screen; it’s about helping change the way audiences perceive and accept the marginalized queer community.
With nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills proposed in 2016 that strive to take away rights with homophobic and transphobic regulations, the queer community needs positive visibility in the arts now more than ever. As Ellis wrote in the report’s opening letter, “Leaving LGBT people out of the picture – or including them only as a punchline – keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions. Hollywood must do better to improve the messages they are sending.”
Last year may have given us huge milestones in limited releases with Carol and Tangerine, plus other noteworthy queer depictions in Grandma, Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm, The Danish Girl and French drama Girlhood. But it’s about time the major studios hop on board and start showcasing the LGBT community in the way they deserve.