LGBT Characters Lacking in Studio Films, Study Finds

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“The lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream film, in addition to the outdated humor and stereotypes suggests large Hollywood studios may be doing more harm than good when it comes to worldwide understanding of the LGBT community,” said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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