Movie Industry Lags Behind TV in LGBT Roles

GLAAD Faults Hollywood Studios

Media watchdog group GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) criticizes Hollywood in its first substantial study of releases from the major film studios. Called “2013 Studio Responsibility Index,” the study found that of 101 films from the six major studios in 2012, only fourteen included characters who were identified as LGB, and none were transgender.
GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz found that as opposed to movies, television has become increasingly inclusive , including a record high percentage of LGBT characters in the 2012-2013 broadcast season. Says Cruz, “as a major influence in American culture and one of our nation’s largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change. Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studio’s part. Whether it’s an action hero or a supporting character, moviegoers should be able to see LGBT people as integral players in the stories told by leading Hollywood studios.” Although this year’s hit, Skyfall, had a bisexual main character, Javier Bardem, he was portrayed as devious and villainous.

Cruz’s organization plans to meet with the major studios about the absence of LGBT characters. Just two decades ago, there were more films, 48 with significant LGBT characters, that grossed over $1 million dollars at the box office.

Conclusions of the Study

The study also found that:
• 56% of those inclusive films featured gay male characters, 33% featured lesbian characters, and 11% contained bisexual characters.
• Of the 31 different characters counted: 26 were white, four were Black/African-American, and one was Latino. There were no Asian-Pacific Islander or recognizably multi-racial characters counted.
• There were more LGBT characters in 2012 releases in comedies. 34 genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy) made up the majority of the 2012 releases, though only three of those included any LGBT characters. Only one of 21 dramas and one of four documentaries were inclusive.

Report Card for the Studios

The criteria to measure the quality of the LGBT roles was whether a character was identifiably LGBT: whether it was not solely or predominantly defined by its sexual orientation or gender identity, and whether it was tied into the plot in such a way that its removal would have significant effect.
Cruz uses the animated family film “ParaNorman” as a good example of an LGBT-inclusive film in 2012.

The six studios were rated by the SRI and their grades are as follows:
• 20th Century Fox and Disney received failing grades.
• Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. got “adequate” grades.

Other Tests to Pass

Before the SRI Index, there was the Bechdel Test to ascertain if a movie properly represented female characters. A Bechdel-inspired set of criteria developed into the Russo Test, named for GLAAD co-founder and film historian Vito Russo. Less than half of the films of 2012 passed the Russo Test.

Criteria for Vito Russo Test
• The film contains 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. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters).
• The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.
• Only 6 of the 14 studio films featuring LGB characters actually passed the Vito Russo Test, including Cloud Atlas, Pitch Perfect, Rock of Ages and The Five Year Engagement.