GLAAD has released its Studio Responsibility Index for 2014, which surveys the major film releases from 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount, Warner Brothers and Sony Columbia from the last year (January 1 to December 31, 2013). With 102 films released nationwide in America in the last year, only 17 included LGBT characters, and most often they were barely on screen or were “outright defamatory representations.”
Out of the films surveyed in 2013, only 23.5% featured lesbian characters and 17.7% contained bisexual characters, male and female combined. 76% of all LGBT characters (whom GLAAD notes “were onscreen for no more than a few seconds”) were white. In short, the lesbian or bi women in studio films this year were bit parts and not representative of the community.
“LGBT people come from all walks of life; we’re your family members, coworkers, neighbors, and peers” said GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis. “Hollywood should strive to reflect that truth, rather than turn us into jokes or simply edit us out.”
Here’s how LGBT women faired.
-20th Century Fox semi-counted Cameron Diaz‘s character in The Counselor as bisexual, “…though the film does little more than tease this as a possibility. Malkina is the girlfriend of a drug kingpin, and in one scene caresses another female character while they lay by a pool, but it appears to be an attempt to make the other woman uncomfortable. Upon review, there ultimately wasn’t enough content in the film to identify this character as bisexual, which is probably for the better. Since she’s a duplicitous, murderous sociopath, Malkina certainly wouldn’t do anything to improve on defamatory stereotypes of bisexual people that have long permeated popular culture.”
-Lionsgate’s Peeples included a black lesbian struggling to come out to her family. “Though Meg and Gloria’s storyline briefly plays into straight-male fantasies about three- ways with lesbian couples, they have a significant presence throughout the film and are accepted without question by the other characters. This film signifies positive progress, especially for films heavily marketed to African American audiences.”
Also The Big Wedding had a bisexual mother. …”Christine Ebersole in a minor role as Muffin, the racist mother of the bride…reveals that her husband ‘doesn’t harp on [her] fetish- es.’ She then indicates this means her attraction to other women, and proceeds to make a pass at the main character played by Diane Keaton, referring to her as ‘delicious.’ Not only is the moment played for laughs but her attraction to other women is referred to as a ‘fetish,’ and Ebersole’s character more or less disappears soon afterwards. This does count as inclusion of a bisexual character, but she is certainly one who could have been better handled.”
Instructions Not Included had a lesbian couple that “become the story’s de facto antagonists for the film’s latter third during the legal battle, though they are also presented in a largely humane light.”
-Universal was “adequate” with their representations, though they include Riddick‘s mishandling of Dahl (Katee Sackhoff). “The implication is quite clear that the hyper-masculine Riddick was too much for even a professed lesbian to resist, thereby validating one of the most egregious and stereotypical ‘straight-guy’ fantasies, and treating her character with profound misogyny in the process. Dahl’s dialogue is enough for the audience to recognize her as an out lesbian character for the duration of the film, but this is sadly another instance where we wish they hadn’t.”
About Time had a lesbian character briefly, but only used for a laugh. “A conversation with [the male lead's] ex-girlfriend and her companion who he first mistakes as a couple, only to learn afterwards that her companion is in fact a lesbian. There is nothing problematic about the way the character is depicted, though she does simply exist to provide humorous miscommunication for the protagonist to try and rectify. She isn’t a character in her own right.
-Paramount had zero lesbian/bi characters.
-Sony Columbia got a “good” rating but it was solely for their male gay/bi characters.
-Walt Disney had a few lesbian kisses in a montage from sperm donor comedy Delivery Man, but that’s it for women.
-Warner Bros. fails with scenes like this one in Grudge Match: “…a butch female heckler referred to as ‘sir’ at a comedy club who is probably meant to read as a lesbian, though she certainly doesn’t stick around long enough to confirm this.” Butch comic Jen Kober played the “sirred” patron.
What’s clear from this year’s SRI is that mainstream Hollywood still doesn’t consider LGBT characters and stories worthy of being leads, nor much more than a quick joke. We continue to have to find ourselves in releases from smaller studios and production companies like Breaking Glass, Strand, The Weinstein Company, IFC and Sundance Selects.
GLAAD makes some great but sad points in the report, saying television is far more progressive and that the film industry sees representation of our community as “risky.” After last year’s report, GLAAD was able to answer a few questions that we still have on why this is so. Outside of Peeples, I wouldn’t recommend any of these films from 2013. Maybe Riddick if you don’t mind queerbaiting.
The most common question we heard was “Why does mainstream film seem to be so far behind the times?” Through meetings with film professionals following the release of the Studio Responsibility Index, we got the chance to directly ask the question. From Hollywood executives, we repeatedly heard “We’re not getting scripts with LGBT characters,” while screenwriters told us, “The studios don’t want to make films with LGBT characters.” The truth is probably somewhere between these two accusations, but if one thing is certain, it’s that nothing will change until there are significant cultural shifts within the industry itself.
As Hollywood continues to be a straight, white, male-driven arena, they miss out on opportunities to tell new and exciting stories that reflect our diverse world. It’s imperative we put our support in those that support us, so consider how these studios view your worth and identity before you give them your $10 for a movie ticket.