GLAAD Finds Movies Lacking in LGBT Characters

GLAAD’s study of LGBT characters in film found that four films out of 101 by the six major studios contained “major” LGBT characters, including Javier Bardem’s antagonist in James Bond.

The six major film studios are lagging behind their TV counterparts when it comes to presenting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters, according to a report recently released by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

For nearly two decades, GLAAD has studied LGBT representation on TV, and annually releases two reports examining the major TV networks (Network Responsibility Index and Where We Are on TV).

For the first time, GLAAD has turned its attention to film.

Of the 101 major studio releases in 2012, only 14 contained LGBT characters, according to the group’s report titled the “Studio Responsibility Index” (SRI).

“A significant shift has happened in the last decade,” the report states. “As television has become increasingly inclusive – including a record high percentage of LGBT characters in the 2012-2013 broadcast season – the film industry is lagging behind. Though indie film still produces some of the most groundbreaking LGBT stories, major film studios appear reluctant to include LGBT characters in significant roles or franchises.”

Disney and 20th Century Fox received “failing” grades, while Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers were deemed “adequate.”

The watchdog group, by studying the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBT people in films, says it hopes its report “serves as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBT film representations.”

How does GLAAD determine what’s of quality?

To determine its index ratings, GLAAD has created the “Vito Russo Test,” inspired by the “Bechdel Test,” which studies the way women are portrayed in works of fiction. Vito Russo was the GLAAD co-founder and a film historian.

Here are some of the criteria used:

– Does the film contain a character identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender?

– Is that character solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity?

– Does the character tie into the plot significantly?

Of the 14 major studio films that featured an LGB character (there were no transexuals), six passed the Russo Test.

The report also found that male LGBT characters outnumbered female characters 63 percent to 37 percent.

Of the 31 total LGBT characters counted in the major studio films, 26 were white (83.9 percent), 4 percent Black (12.9 percent) and one was Latino (3.2 percent). There were no Asians represented.

Four films out of 101 contained “major” LGBT characters, meaning they appeared in more than just a few scenes and had a substantial role in the film’s story.

The report also notes that many of the LGBT characters were found in comedies (37.5 percent). Of the 24 action, sci-fi and fantasy films, three contained LGBT characters. One of 21 dramas had an LGBT character. None of the animated or family films had LGBT characters.

The report mentions one of the few major LGBT characters portrayed on the big screen was Javier Bardem’s antagonist James Bond character, who was strongly suggested to be bisexual.

“Depicting a bisexual person as villainous is an unfortunate cinematic tradition, and raises the question of whether a major studio would ever depict a male protagonist of an action franchise as anything other than straight,” the report says.

According to the report, 20th Century Fox released 15 films in 2012, none of which included appearances by LGBT people, and “has one of the slightest track records when it comes to LGBT inclusive films.”

Paramount Pictures released 14 films, three of which included LGBT characters (“Katy Perry: Part of Me,” “Fun Size” and “A Thousand Words”). One passed the Vito Russo test.

Of 19 films released by Sony Columbia, four films included LGBT characters (“Skyfall,” “Think Like a Man,” “21 Jump Street” and “That’s My Boy”) and only one passed the Vito Russo test.

Universal Pictures also had four films with LGBT characters, out of 16 films, with two passing the Vito Russo test. The films, all comedies, were “Pitch Perfect,” “TED,” “The Five-Year Engagement” and “American Reunion.”

“It’s high past time that action, sci-fi and fantasy films became more inclusive, and Universal certainly produces their fair share in those genres,” the report stated.

Walt Disney, which produced 13 films, had one film (“The Avengers”) with an LGBT character.

“The Avengers” included a brief appearance by out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts playing himself.

“It qualifies as a cameo at best, and could be easily missed by many viewers,” the report states.

Warner Brothers released 24 films, two of which included appearances by LGBT people. Both films passed the Russo Test.

“Among the big studio releases, ‘Cloud Atlas’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ contained the most significant gay characters seen in 2012, and Warner Brothers deserves credit for that,” the report says.

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10 years ago

If LGBTs are supposed to be 10% of the population, then I think we are being represented. I know that the movement has been going full steam, but I fear that there will be fatigue at some point if there is over saturation. This sort of thing takes time. There are many gay characters on TV, and that is great. I feel things are moving forward.

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