GLAAD released its second annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) today, and the news was depressing as you'd expect. The report maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2013 calendar year, and found that of the 102 releases from the major studios in 2013, 17 of them included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Worse, the majority of these characters were minor roles or cameos, and GLAAD felt that many of them were outright defamatory representations in films such as "Pain & Gain" and Riddick".
“The lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream film, in addition to the outdated humor and stereotypes suggests large Hollywood studios may be doing more harm than good when it comes to worldwide understanding of the LGBT community,” said GLAAD's CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis. “These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members, and should reflect the true fabric of our society rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe.”
Both Paramount and Warner Brothers received "failing" grades for including only minor and offensive portrayals of LGBT people in their 2013 releases. 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios received grades of "adequate." Sony Columbia was the first and only studio to receive a "good" score for several LGBT-inclusive films, including "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," which was the only film tracked in the report that was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. No studio has yet received a grade of "excellent."
Some general observations, care of GLAAD:
- Out of the 102 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2013, 17 of them (16.7%) contained characters identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Last year, GLAAD counted 14 inclusive films, however this is also the first year that Lionsgate Entertainment was included in the tally. Lionsgate released 3 inclusive films in 2013.
- More than half of those inclusive films (64.7%) featured gay male characters, while another 23.5% featured lesbian characters, 17.7% contained bisexual characters, and 11.8% contained transgender female characters (better described as impressions). Male LGBT characters outnumbered female characters 64% to 36%.
- Of the 25 different characters counted (many of whom were onscreen for no more than a few seconds), 19 were white (76%) while only 3 were Black/African American (12%), 2 were Asian/Pacific Islander (8%), and 1 was Latino (4%).
- The most common place to find LGBT characters in the major studios' 2013 releases were in comedies, where 8 of the 19 total comedies GLAAD counted (42.1%) were inclusive. By comparison, 43 genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy, etc) made up the majority of the 2013 releases, though only 4 (9.3%) of those contained any LGBT characters. Additionally, 5 of 28 dramas (17.9%) were inclusive, while there were no LGBT characters in any animated or family-oriented films or documentaries from the seven studios tracked.
GLAAD's recommendations to studios:
- Genre films like comic-book adaptations and action franchises are the areas where Hollywood film studios seem to commit the majority of their capital and promotional resources nowadays, but LGBT characters are still rarely seen in them. Especially given their global popularity, these films must become more diverse and inclusive.
- None of the LGBT characters that GLAAD counted in 2013 releases are considered "lead" characters, and there were only a few that had substantial supporting roles. In fact, many of these appearances were no more than a few seconds long, or just enough time to get to a punchline. As is still often said of Hollywood's treatment of other marginalized groups, there need to be more substantial LGBT roles in film.
- Diversity in LGBT images continues to be an issue in nearly all forms of media, and film is no different. Not only should there be a greater number of substantial LGBT roles, those characters should be more gender-balanced, racially diverse, and from many backgrounds.
- There were no transgender characters in the 2012 releases GLAAD tracked, but the two found in the 2013 releases were hardly an improvement. One was a transwoman very briefly depicted in a jail cell, while the other was an outright defamatory depiction included purely to give the audience something to laugh at. Media representation of transgender people has long remained decades behind that of gay and lesbian people, and images like these continue to marginalize the community. However, recent media attention around trans issues and people like actress Laverne Cox demonstrates that times are quickly changing, and Hollywood should as well.
- Anti-gay slurs are less common in film now than they were 20 years ago, but they are by no means extinct, and some are still used by characters the audience is meant to be rooting for. Perhaps even more prevalent are anti-transgender slurs which in 2013 were used by main characters in films like "Anchor Man 2" and "Identity Thief" for no reason other than to make a joke. With few exceptions, these words should be left on the cutting room floor.
Notably, last year GLAAD also introduced the "Vito Russo Test," a set of criteria analyzing how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work. Named after GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian Vito Russo, and partly inspired by the “Bechdel Test," these criteria represent a standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach in the future.
The Vito Russo Test criteria:
- The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
- That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).
- The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.
Less than half (seven) of the 17 major studio films that featured an LGBT character managed to pass the Vito Russo Test.
“LGBT people come from all walks of life; we're your family members, coworkers, neighbors, and peers” said Ellis. “Hollywood should strive to reflect that truth, rather than turn us into jokes or simply edit us out.”
To view the report visit: http://glaad.org/sri