On Thursday morning, GLAAD released its seventh annual Studio Responsibility Index which sheds some light on the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios and their subsidiaries during the 2018 calendar year — and it was a good year for LGTBQ representation.
Even though there was an increase in queer inclusion in film, the representation still is an uphill battle. All of this was addressed in the full report and in a forum co-hosted by Endeavor Content held in Los Angeles with GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, transgender actress Jamie Clayton (Sense8, Designated Survivor), executive chairman and founder of EXILE Content Isaac Lee and Black List founder Franklin Leonard.
“We are honored to host the second annual forum with GLAAD,” said Endeavor Content Co-President Graham Taylor. “The results of their SRI show promise, but we still have more work to do.”
“We remain committed to our partnership with GLAAD,” added Endeavor Content Co-President Chris Rice, “ensuring that together, we find solutions to provide a platform for underrepresented storytellers.”
In this year’s report, GLAAD found that of the 110 releases from major studios in 2018, 20 (18.2%) included characters that were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. Good news is that this was a significant increase from the previous year’s report which saw an all-time low at 12.8%, 14 out of 109 films. This is also the second highest percentage of inclusive films found in the seven-year history of the report, just behind 18.4 percent of films (23 of 125) in 2016.
There was even more good news as it was reported that there was an equal number of films which included gay and lesbian characters, with 55 percent (11) of LGBTQ-inclusive films counting gay men, and 55 percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films featuring lesbian characters. Bisexual representation held steady at 15 percent in three films.
This is great, right? Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
For the second year in a row, transgender characters were absent from the 110 major studio releases and inclusion of queer people of color saw a significant drop. In 2018, 42 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color (19 of 45) and 58 percent (26) were white. This is a decrease of fifteen percentage points from 57 percent of LGBTQ characters of color in 2017. The silver lining to this is that even though there was a decrease in racial diversity as a whole, GLAAD counted six Asian/Pacific Islander (13 percent) in major studio releases in 2018. This is a notable improvement from the previous year when API LGBTQ characters were entirely absent from mainstream releases.
In last year’s SRI, GLAAD called on the seven major film studios to ensure that 20 percent of annual releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50 percent of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024. Four of the seven studios hit this 20 percent goal individually – 20th Century Fox at 40 percent, Universal Pictures with 30 percent, then Warner Brothers at 22 percent, and Paramount rounding out at exactly 20 percent.
“The successful releases of films including Love, Simon, Deadpool 2 and Blockers, brought fresh LGBTQ stories to audiences around the world and have raised the bar for LGBTQ inclusion in film,” said Ellis. “While the film industry should include more stories of LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, studios are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films.”
The SRI handed out ratings to the seven studios when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion and 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures moved to the head of the class, receiving “Good” ratings. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and Warner Brothers received “Insufficient” ratings. Coming in last were Lionsgate Entertainment and Walt Disney who were both stamped with “Failing” ratings.
In order to continue to move the needle and progress, GLAAD’s SRI offered up some recommendations on how the studios can both improve depictions of LGBTQ characters and stop repeating mistakes. This includes giving LGBTQ characters more screen time. Of the 20 LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018, GLAAD found that ten films featured more than ten minutes of screen-time for an LGBTQ character. Of the 45 LGBTQ characters counted this year, 26 of them had less than three minutes of screen time and 16 of those had under one minute. In addition, GLAAD urged that more animated and family films must be more inclusive of LGBTQ characters as none of the 18 films that fell under the category of animated/family film released by major studios in 2018 included LGBTQ characters. This is the first time in five years that GLAAD has not counted a single film in that genre as LGBTQ-inclusive. GLAAD also addressed the decrease in racial diversity of the LGBTQ characters and is pushing for not only more queer people of color but also intersectional identities including characters with a disability, those of different religions, body types, more trans characters, more queer women, and others. GLAAD also urged studios to follow the lead of TV and put more trans stories and characters front and center in major studio films.
“We know that inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for the bottom line. Audiences supported stand out LGBTQ-inclusive wide releases last year with both their dollars and social buzz. Nielsen found that LGBTQ audiences are 22 percent more likely to see a theatrical release more than once,” said Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis. “The studios should recognize the power of LGBTQ moviegoers and the desire for stories that reflect ourselves, and create and market more films for this audience who is ready to buy tickets.”
GLAAD’s SRI also analyzed films based on GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test, a set of criteria analyzing how LGBTQ characters are situated in a narrative, which is inspired by the Bechdel Test and Named after GLAAD co-founder and film historian Vito Russo. This year, it was found that 65 percent (13 of 20) of LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018 passed the Vito Russo Test, which is the highest percentage recorded in the report’s history. The major studio releases that passed the Vito Russo Test in 2018 include Love, Simon, Blockers, Deadpool 2, Crazy Rich Asians, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and others.
GLAAD also released a video watch below of advocates in the industry speaking about the power of LGBTQ images in film as they renewed their call to action to have 20% of film to be inclusive by 2021. The video includes moments from the GLAAD Media Awards featuring Greg Berlanti, Samira Wiley, Lena Waithe, Troye Sivan, Kerry Washington, Trace Lysette and Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Watch the video below and read GLAAD’s full SRI report here