Racial diversity amongst authentic LGBTQ characters in Hollywood studio films has increased along with the amount of screen time they are given, according to GLAAD’s ninth annual Studio Responsibility Index report on Thursday.
The media advocacy organization uses the “Vito Russo test” criteria to analyze how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters are situated in narratives and assess the quality, quantity and diversity of such portrayals in films released widely by the eight major studios: Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, STX Films, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros.
Of the 44 films released from these studios in 2020, 10 included LGBTQ characters. Of these films, which range from Like a Boss to Birds of Prey, 20 LGBTQ characters were counted, which is a decrease from 50 in last year’s report (the COVID-19 pandemic affected the studio calendar, which GLAAD indicates). Of the group, queer women slightly outnumbered men for the first time in the report’s history.
“This is a critical time of transformation for Hollywood – challenged to redefine business lines and practices during a global pandemic, driven by an increased demand from consumers hungry for new content, and rocked by the rightful reckoning and pressure for these studios to create more meaningful substantive change in representing and investing in marginalized communities,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“This transformation represents a great opportunity to swiftly accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ stories, break new ground, and invest in queer and trans talent and stories that audiences are eager to watch. Hollywood and the business of storytelling must be more nimble, more creative, more open than ever before.”
Eight characters among the group of LGBTQ characters in this latest study were people of color — a rise of 6 percent from 2019 — including Asian-Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx and Indigenous.
Half of the LGBTQ characters counted in the study had 10 or more minutes of screen time in films such as The New Mutants, Freaky, Fantasy Island and The Broken Hearts Gallery. while 6 of the 20 characters registered under one minute. “There remains a huge opportunity for meaningful LGBTQ storytelling and for unambiguously marketing and promotion,” wrote GLAAD in the report.
For the fourth year in a row, the study found no transgender or non-binary characters. In addition, no characters living with HIV were recorded.
GLAAD’s challenge for Hollywood studios to improve representation in these areas remains, and the organization is now calling on distributors “to prioritize active development and theatrical release in coming years of stories featuring LGBTQ characters living with HIV.” Meanwhile, zero characters with a disability were registered.
GLAAD found a decrease from 14 percent to 10 percent in bisexual representation, with only one film containing a bi character. Lesbian representation increased, with five of the 10 films containing lesbian characters.
While GLAAD typically assigns a grade to each major studio, ranging from “Excellent” to “Failing,” the organization has not done that this year due to theater operations having been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Grading will resume for the next study.
“As the industry looks towards a changing future, it is clear that LGBTQ characters need to be part of stories across all platforms of distribution, and prioritizing offering fan engagement experiences provides even greater opportunity for representation and inclusion,” said Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis.
“Sincerely engaging LGBTQ audiences can only benefit the studio’s bottom lines,” Townsend concluded.