Only two of the 25 major Hollywood studio films released during America’s traditional big box office season include any LGBTQ characters.
“LGBTQ people are still nearly invisible in the films released by the seven major studios over this summer,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at the LGBTQ media group, GLAAD.
The two studio films released between 1 June and 1 September that featured LGBTQ characters were the comedies Rough Night and Hazlo Como Hombre.
Sony’s Rough Night follows a group of five friends who reunite for a wild bachelorette party and accidentally kill a male stripper, and the drama and comedy that ensues. The film’s core cast featured former college girlfriends who realise they are still in love. The inclusion of LGBTQ main characters – especially women of color – is almost unseen in mainstream film today, said GLAAD.
The Spanish-language film Hazlo Como Hombre (Do It Like an Hombre) from Lionsgate/Pantelion centers on the ‘gay panic’ of lead character Raúl after his best friend, Santiago, comes out as gay and breaks off his engagement to Raúl’s sister. While it was applauded for including four LGBTQ characters, one whom was significant to the plot, it was slammed for containing offensive “anti-gay language and sentiment played for laughs”.
They were the only films to pass GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test, named after the acclaimed LGBTQ film historian. To pass the test, a film must contain a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. they are comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight/non-transgender characters from one another).
The LGBTQ 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 colourful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character must matter.
Townsend noted that audience attendance this past movie season had seen a major drop compared to previous years. In fact, CNN reported that “Hollywood had its worst summer in 20 years”.
“Audiences have become bored with the formulaic stories hitting the big screen, and they are increasingly turning to where they can see themselves represented – on television and streaming services,” Townsend said.
“If Hollywood wants to remain relevant and win those viewers back to the box office, they need to begin producing new stories, with diverse and complex characters that audiences can identify with,” she added.