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GLAAD Report Finds LGBTQ Characters Are Either Invisible Or Used As Punchlines In Studio Movies

Only 18.4% of studio releases included characters identified as LGBTQ, and the vast majority of those were white, gay men.

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GLAAD’s annual studio report measuring LGBTQ representation in Hollywood gave Lionsgate Entertainment, Sony Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios ‘Failing’ ratings, while 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and Warner Brothers received ‘Poor’ ratings.

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The leading LGBTQ media advocacy organization released today its fifth annual Studio Responsibility Index, which maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest studios and their subsidiaries during the 2016 calendar year. The report found that of 125 releases from major studios in 2016, only 23 of them (18.4%) included characters identified as LGBTQ. 83% percent of inclusive films feature gay male characters, making gay men the most represented group by far. Lesbian portrayals increased from 23% in 2015 to 35% in 2016, while bisexuals appeared in 13% of inclusive films.

READ MORE: GLAAD Launches Grant and Mentorship to Support LGBTQ Filmmakers and Stories

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GLAAD took Warner Bros. to task for erasing Harley Quinn’s bisexuality from “Suicide Squad,” a prominent feature of the character in the original comic book. Only one studio film included a transgender character, which the report called “abysmally low”; Paramount’s widely panned “Zoolander 2,” which uses the character as a punchline. GLAAD also found the percentage of non-white LGBTQ characters decreased over the last three years: In 2016, only 20% of LGBTQ characters were people of color, compared to 25.5% in 2015 and 32.1% in 2014.

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“With many of the most popular TV shows proudly including LGBTQ characters and stories, the time has come for the film industry to step up and show the full diversity of the world that movie audiences are living in today instead and end the outdated humor seen in many films,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

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Inspired by the Bechdel test, GLAAD named their criteria for judging a film’s LGBTQ inclusivity “The Vito Russo Test,” after the author of the seminal book on LGBTQ representation in media, “The Celluloid Closet.” In order to pass, a film must contain at least one character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender; the character must not be solely defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity; and the character must be integral to the plot in such a way as their removal would have a significant effect.

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Anyone who has been to a movie theater in the last year won’t be surprised to learn these disheartening statistics. Thankfully, GLAAD is a vital organization standing up to the Hollywood status quo.

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