GLAAD, one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organizations, has released its third annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2014 calendar year. For the first time, GLAAD this year also tracked LGBT representations in films released by four major subsidiary studios.
GLAAD found that of the 114 releases from the major studios in 2014, 20 of them (17.5%) included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. There were no identifiable transgender characters in major film releases. In 2014, GLAAD saw fewer overtly defamatory depictions in mainstream film compared to last year, though offensive representations were by no means absent, and were found in films such as Exodus: Gods and Kings and Horrible Bosses 2.
“As television and streaming services continue to produce a remarkable breadth of diverse LGBT representations, we still struggle to find depictions anywhere near as authentic or meaningful in mainstream Hollywood film. The industry continues to look increasingly out of touch by comparison, and still doesn’t represent the full diversity of the American cultural fabric,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
Warner Brothers was the only studio to receive a “Good” score for its slate of films, which included the GLAAD Media Award-nominated film Tammy. 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures all scored “Adequate,” with Sony Columbia Pictures and The Walt Disney Studios scored as “Failing.” No studio has yet received a grade of “Excellent.”
Out of the 114 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2014, 20 of them (17.5%) contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. This is a slight increase from the 16.7% of films from the same studios we found to be inclusive last year. There were zero depictions of transgender people in 2014, despite a historic year for transgender representation on television.
Once again, most of the inclusive films (65%) featured gay male characters with less than a third (30%) featuring bisexual characters and about one tenth (10%) including lesbian characters. There was a slight increase in racial diversity of LGB characters identified in 2014 with 32.1% being people of color compared to 24% in 2013. Of the 28 characters we counted, 19 were white (67.9%), 3 were Black/African American (10.7%), 2 were Latino/a (7.1%), and 4 were Asian/Pacific Islander (14.3%).
For the third year in a row, comedies were the most likely major studio films to be LGBT-inclusive (8 of 19, 42.1%) while LGBT people were largely shut out of the genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy) where Hollywood film studios commit the majority of their capital and promotional resources (3 of 46, 6.5%). Additionally, 3 of 13 animated/family films (23.1%), 6 of 33 dramas (18.2%), and none of the 3 documentaries contained LGBT characters.
The majority of the LGBT depictions GLAAD found in Hollywood film this year were minor characters or even just cameos. Of the 20 films we found to be inclusive, ten of those contained less than five minutes of screen time for their LGBT characters – with several being less than 30 seconds – while three others contained less than ten minutes of screen time. In the case of several films, audiences may not have been aware that they were seeing LGBT characters if they did not read outside press coverage or were unaware of the real-life LGBT person a character was based on.
This year, GLAAD also examined the film releases of four smaller, affiliated studios (Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics) to draw a comparison between the mainstream studios and their perceived “art house” or “independent” wings. Of the 47 films released under those studio imprints, we found only 5 to be LGBT-inclusive, or 10.6%.
GLAAD introduced the “Vito Russo Test” in 2012, a set of criteria analyzing how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work, in the first SRI and continues to judge films by these simple guidelines. Named after GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian Vito Russo, and partly inspired by the “Bechdel Test,” these criteria represent a standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach in the future.
The Vito Russo Test criteria:
- The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
- 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 from one another).
- The LGBT 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 colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.
Eleven of the 20 major studio films that featured an LGBT character passed the Vito Russo Test.
“While we were pleased to see Warner Brothers show real improvement in its LGBT-inclusive films in 2014, they also recently released the comedy Get Hard, one of the most problematic films we have seen in some time. This glaring lack of consistency seems to be common amongst almost every major film studio, showing a need for greater oversight in how their films represent – or don’t represent – significant portions of their audience,” said Ellis. “Only when they make those changes and catch up to other, more consistently inclusive media portrayals will we be able to say that America’s film industry is a full partner in accelerating acceptance.”