LGBT Characters Lacking in Studio Films, Study Finds

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After undertaking its Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) for the second year to exam the quantity and quality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender representation in mainstream Hollywood, nonprofit organization GLAAD has determined that the 2013 calendar year was a “depressing realization.”

Stating that little changed in the year since the first report, GLAAD’s findings covered films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros.

Of 102 film releases GLAAD counted from the studios, just 17 of them (16.7%) contained characters identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And, only seven of the 17 films passed GLAAD’s Vito Russo test. (Much like the Bechdel test that looks for works of fiction where two women talk to each other about something besides a man, this exam looks for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters who are not solely or predominantly defined by their orientation or gender identification and who must also be tied to the plot in a way that their removal would have a significant effect).

According to the report, 64.7% of films featured gay male characters, 23.5% featured lesbian characters, 17.7% contained bisexual characters and 11.8% contained transgender female characters. Male LGBT characters also outnumbered female characters 64% to 36%.

The report also notes that, for the two transgender roles found in the 2013 releases, one was a transwoman briefly shown in a jail cell, while the other was an “outright defamatory depiction” used “purely to give the audience something to laugh at.”

“The lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream film, in addition to the outdated humor and stereotypes suggests large Hollywood studios may be doing more harm than good when it comes to worldwide understanding of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the org’s president and CEO. “These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members, and should reflect the true fabric of our society rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe.”

On the upside, GLAAD’s report determined that television was far more inclusive to LGBT characters. The org credits networks for identifying a diverse audience and providing thematically diverse content that recognizes that “American viewers are much more accepting and forward thinking than they are often given credit for.”

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  1. JM says:

    More like: “LGBT, Black, Asian American, Latino, and Other Minority Characters Lacking in Studio Films.” Only recently has Hollywood been adding more ethnically diverse characters in mainstream films (like the latest X-Men) to appeal to foreign markets, where there’s a lot of money to be made. Sad but true. I’ve yet to see the diversity of my community on screen, but remain hopeful this will change someday…

  2. AK Geordie says:

    I’m gay and as concerned as anyone with the inclusion of LGBT folks in entertainment, but by these numbers it seems we’re represented disproportionately to our representation in the general population. Good for Hollywood.

  3. At some point, it does come down to what the consumer wants to see, not what some focus group wants us to produce.

  4. Patricia Zell says:

    As a new screenwriter, I realized that most LGBT representations in the feature film world either treat LGBTs as jokes or as being sick/dying. In my romantic comedy franchise, the first four screenplays focus on nine couples, including an interracial baby-boomer couple and a gay couple. As I was writing the second script which introduces Ian who becomes a major character, I realized it wouldn’t be fair to leave him hanging while all the other major characters find love. So, he finds the one man who he connects to (loves) and gets married.

    This franchise has prequels and sequels. In the sequels especially, I plan to have a bisexual young lady and through her story, I’ll hit transsexual issues, too. (In the story, this young lady will be attracted to both a guy and a girl–I’ll toss a coin to determine who she ends up with. The one who she doesn’t end up with will find his/her own mate.)

    I’m a Christian and have been for a very long time. I believe it’s time for us to quit condemning each other for the genetic codes and early circumstances of our lives. We have no control over the genetic codes we are born with and over the circumstances we grow up in. I think we need to quit harping on gender issues and encourage people to find someone they can connect with and love.

    • Matt says:

      Sorry, Patricia. That won’t sell, and that is what this business is all about… selling and making money. Gay does not sell and never will. Transsexuals are the kiss of death. Does not matter one bit what Glaad wants, its want the public wants.

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