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GLAAD’s ‘Studio Responsibility Test’: Only 20 of 114 Films Last Year Featured LGBT Characters

GLAAD's 'Studio Responsibility Test': Only 20 of 114 Films Last Year Featured LGBT Characters

GLAAD has released its annual “Studio Responsibility Index,” and it’s as sad as you might expect. 

Looking at “the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2014 calendar year,” GLAAD found that of the 114 releases from the
major studios in 2014, 20 of them (17.5%) included characters identified as
lesbian, gay, or bisexual. There were no identifiable transgender characters in
major film releases. That somehow is a slight increase from the 16.7% they found last year, though that’s hardly good news.

GLAAD also saw 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.”

“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,” said GLAAD President
& CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

Warner Brothers was the only studio to receive a
“Good” score for its films.  20th Century Fox, Lionsgate
Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures all scored
“Adequate,” with Sony Columbia Pictures and The Walt Disney Studios scored
as “Failing.” No studio has yet received a grade of “Excellent.” 

Here’s some of GLAAD’s Observations and Recommendations:

  • Out
    of the 114 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2014, 20 of
    them (17.5%) contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
    This is a slight increase from the 16.7% of films from the same studios we
    found to be inclusive last year. There were zero depictions of transgender
    people in 2014, despite a historic year for transgender representation on
    television.

  • Once
    again, most of the inclusive films (65%) featured gay male characters with
    less than a third (30%) featuring bisexual characters and about one tenth
    (10%) including lesbian characters. There was a slight increase in racial
    diversity of LGB characters identified in 2014 with 32.1% being people of
    color compared to 24% in 2013. Of the 28 characters we counted, 19 were
    white (67.9%), 3 were Black/African American (10.7%), 2 were Latino/a
    (7.1%), and 4 were Asian/Pacific Islander (14.3%).

  • For
    the third year in a row, comedies were the most likely major studio films
    to be LGBT-inclusive (8 of 19, 42.1%) while LGBT people were largely shut
    out of the genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy) where Hollywood film
    studios commit the majority of their capital and promotional resources (3
    of 46, 6.5%).  Additionally, 3 of 13
    animated/family films (23.1%), 6 of 33 dramas (18.2%), and none of the 3
    documentaries contained LGBT characters.

  • The
    majority of the LGBT depictions GLAAD found in Hollywood film this year
    were minor characters or even just cameos. 
    Of the 20 films we found to be inclusive, ten of those contained
    less than five minutes of screen time for their LGBT characters – with
    several being less than 30 seconds – while three others contained less
    than ten minutes of screen time. In the case of several films, audiences
    may not have been aware that they were seeing LGBT characters if they did
    not read outside press coverage or were unaware of the real-life LGBT
    person a character was based on.

  • This
    year, GLAAD also examined the film releases of four smaller, affiliated
    studios (Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony
    Pictures Classics) to draw a comparison between the mainstream studios and
    their perceived “art house” or “independent”
    wings.  Of the 47 films released
    under those studio imprints, we found only 5 to be LGBT-inclusive, or
    11%. 

Notably, GLAAD introduced the “Vito Russo Test”
in 2012, which analyzes 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:

  1. The film contains a character that is
    identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

How many passed this test?  11 of the 20 major studio films that featured an
LGBT character.

“While we were pleased to see Warner
Brothers show real improvement in its LGBT-inclusive films in 2014, they also
recently released the comedy Get Hard,
one of the most problematic films we have seen in some time,” said Ellis.” 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.” 

Read the full report here.

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