GLAAD just released its third annual Studio Responsibility Index, tracking the representation of LGBT characters in film and surprise! The results are pretty abysmal. Sony and Walt Disney studios both received “failing” grades, and of the major studios, only Warner Brothers received a “good” rating. Amazingly, Warner Brothers managed that rating despite its release of Get Hard, which, no matter what Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart may try desperately to convince us, was called in the survey “one of the most problematic films we have seen in some time.”
What’s really amazing is that the representation of LGBT characters in film is so poor, with such little improvement over the course of these reports, while over in television, the representation landscape is changing quickly and dramatically. Last year’s report held up Modern Family as an example of how inclusion of gay characters does not have to be reserved for edgy, fringe material. That’s one of the
blandest, most generic “safe” (their word) shows on television, and gay characters certaily don’t hurt their ratings. As GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis puts it,
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.A few findings from the report (which can be read in its entirety here:
—Of the 114 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2014, 20 (17.5%) contained characters identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
—The total number of identifiably LGBT characters GLAAD counted this year was 28, slightly up from 25 last year.
—65% of the LGBT characters found were gay males, but racial diversity has improved since last year, with 32.1% being characters of color.
—For the third year in a row, big studio comedies were more likely than dramas or other genres to be LGBT-inclusive.
—Most of the LGBT characters were cameos with less than five minutes of screen time.
Ellis explains perfectly why these representations matter and why the film industry needs to get is ass in gear and catch up with the rest of the entertainment industry.
Hollywood must recognize that LGBT people are worthy of depictions crafted with care and humanity, and we should be part of the stories they tell. Doing so won’t simply demonstrate respect for a long-standing part of their audience, but it will align Hollywood film with other media in telling more authentic stories that represent the full diversity of our society and encourage greater understanding Only then will we be able to say that America’s film industry is a full partner in accelerating acceptance.