GLAAD released its fourth annual Studio Responsibility Index this morning, finding that the racial diversity of LGBT characters “drastically decreased” since last year’s report and that there “remains a lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream films.” No studios were given a “Good” rating for their 2015 films while Paramount, Disney and Warner Bros received “Failing” grades from the media advocacy watchdog for their portrayals of LGBT people.
GLAAD’s index maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest studios during the calendar year. The group found that of the 126 releases from the major studios in 2015, 22 (17.5%) included characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. That reps no change from the 17.5% of films found to be inclusive in the previous report. The group says the majority of LGBT characters in 2015 were minor roles.
“Hollywood’s films lag far behind any other form of media when it comes to portrayals of LGBT characters,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Too often, the few LGBT characters that make it to the big screen are the target of a punchline or token characters. The film industry must embrace new and inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant.”
GLAAD said both Paramount and Disney “completely excluded LGBT characters in their 2015 film slates.” It added that transgender representation is “shockingly low,” with only one character in the mainstream releases of 2015 — Warner’s Hot Pursuit — “whose brief appearance served as a punchline.”
While Warner received a “Good” rating for 2014, GLAAD this year handed out no such stamps of approval. Of the other majors, Fox, Lionsgate, Sony and Universal all received ratings of “Adequate.”
But, GLAAD said, “Adequate is no longer adequate” and beginning next year, the SRI will use a five-star scale, from one star (“Failing”) to five stars (“Excellent”).
Particularly upsetting is the “dismal” racial diversity of LGBT characters across all media platforms. But, says GLAAD, “film sadly took a step back this year with a near seven-percentage point drop in LGBT characters of color… There is not just one LGBT experience and there are plenty of diverse and groundbreaking stories about the LGBT community yet to be told. Creators must tell the stories of our large and diverse community through the eyes of more than one character, thereby creating opportunities for compelling storylines.”
There was better news on the specialty side. GLAAD examined the releases of four smaller affiliated studios (Focus, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions and Sony Classics) to draw a comparison. Of the 46 films released under those studios’ imprints in 2015, GLAAD found 10 (22%) to be LGBT-inclusive — an increase from the 10.6% from the same divisions in 2014.
GLAAD noted that films which relied on “gay panic and defamatory stereotypes for cheap laughs” included Kevin Hart-starring films Get Hard (WB) and The Wedding Ringer (Sony), “which contain more blatant and incessant gay panic humor than we have seen in a Hollywood film in years.” Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Par) also received a mention.
GLAAD said it would like to see a greater number of mainstream films pass what’s known as the Vito Russo Test. Inspired by the Bechdel Test (and named for Vito Russo, author of the groundbreaking 1981 study of gay Hollywood The Celluloid Closet), it’s a set of criteria which analyzes how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work. After improvements in the past few years, only eight of the 22 major studio films that featured an LGBT character passed the test for 2015, the lowest percentage in the study’s history.