Hollywood | Alarming drop in LGBTQ film characters

Call Me By Your Name was not included

Media lobby group GLAAD says that only 14 (12.8%) of the 109 releases from major Hollywood studios in 2017 included LGBTQ characters.

That represents a significant decrease from the previous year (18.4%, 23 out of 125), and the lowest percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive major studio releases since GLAAD began tracking this in 2012.

Not one of the 109 major releases from last year included a transgender character, a drop from the one transgender character portrayed in 2016, who only served as a punchline.

This information was released in GLAAD’s sixth annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), which maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest American motion picture studios during the 2017 calendar year

The report’s numbers do not include independent or art-house divisions, studios or distributors that made critically acclaimed fare such as Call Me By Your Name, A Fantastic Woman and Inxeba (The Wound), but focus on the companies that reach tens of millions of people through their mainstream releases.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called on the seven major film studios to make sure that at least 20% of annual major studio releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50% of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024.

“With wildly successful films like Wonder Woman and Black Panther proving that audiences want to see diverse stories that haven’t been told before, there is simply no reason for major studios to have such low scores on the Studio Responsibility Index,” said Ellis.

“At a time when the entertainment industry is holding much needed discussions about inclusion, now is the time to ensure the industry takes meaningful action and incorporates LGBTQ stories and creators as among priorities areas for growing diversity.”

In the latest index, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures both received an ‘Insufficient’ rating; Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and Walt Disney received ‘Poor’ ratings; and Lionsgate Entertainment and Warner Brothers received ‘Failing’ ratings.

GLAAD shared recommendations for the film industry to reach the benchmark of 20% of annual major studio releases including LGBTQ characters by 2021. This includes making LGBTQ characters more prominent in studio films as they tend to be minor characters. Of the 14 inclusive films distributed by major studios in 2017, seven (50%) included less than five minutes of screen time for their LGBTQ characters.

The comedy Rough Night was praised for its lesbian characters

GLAAD also argues that far too often LGBTQ characters and stories are relegated to subtext, and it is left up to the audience to interpret or read into a character as being LGBTQ. “Our stories deserve to be seen on screen just as much as everyone else’s, not hidden away or left to guess work, but boldly and fully shown,” said GLAAD.

The organistion further called on films based on comic books to reflect the diversity of their source material. There have been several in recent years that have erased a character’s queer identity as they moved from page to screen, said GLAAD. In 2017, Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and DC’s Wonder Woman both included characters who are queer in the source material, but did not include any on screen confirmation of their identities.

Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD, noted that some wide release films this year, such as Love, Simon, Annihilation, Blockers and Deadpool 2, feature LGBTQ characters.  “We hope that these films are the start of an upward trend of sustained progress, and not just a blip in the radar of next year’s SRI,” she said.

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