Most of the characters in the 101 films GLAAD surveyed were just minor roles or cameos, according to the org. None of the characters identified as transgender, and fewer than half passed GLAAD’s new “Vito Russo” test of how LGBT characters are portrayed.
“As a major influence in American culture and one of our nation’s largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change,” said GLAAD’s national spokesperson Wilson Cruz in a statement announcing the org’s findings. “Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios’ part.”
According to the report, more than half of the 14 films included gay male characters, 33% featured lesbians and 11% included bisexual characters. Male characters represented 63% of LGBT images on screen, and more than 84% of all characters were white.
Universal released four films with LGBT characters, the most out of the six majors. 20th Century Fox released zero. GLAAD said comedies were the most likely to have featured people identifying as LGBT, and said that studios seemed “reluctant” to include LGBT characters in comic book adaptations and action franchises.
In the absence of more substantial roles, GLAAD’s study called for LGBT characters to at least have some passing mention in the world in which a film takes place.
“When LGBT people or couples are made part of a larger ensemble or even featured in brief, casual manner, at the very least it reminds the audience that LGBT people are a part of the same society and present a more accurate portrait of that society,” the study stated.
GLAAD’s Vito Russo test, named after the org’s co-founder, looks at whether LGBT characters are defined solely by sexual orientation and whether their roles “simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline.”