Every year GLAAD releases their findings on LGBT characters/themes/storylines on television. This year, for the first time, they’ve done the same for movies, calling it their Studio Responsibility Index. Because the movie industry can be so hard to analyze in its entirety, they explain their focus:
For this report, GLAAD focused its quantitative analysis on the six film studios that had the highest theatrical grosses from films released in 2012, as reported by the box office data- base, Box Office Mojo. Those six studios were 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers. These are often collectively referred to as the “Big Six” by the entertainment industry and press.
The report examined films that were released theatrically during the 2012 calendar year (January 1 to December 31), and under the official studio banners and imprints. Films released by officially separate studio divisions (such as Fox Searchlight) are acknowledged, but were not part of the final tally. These distinctions were informed in part by the box office reporting of Box Office Mojo and other entertainment industry databases. The total number of films that fall within the research parameters is 101.
In other words, most films are likely to not be about gay people, but have gay bit parts. The SRI is about the mainstream movie industry and what people are seeing if they are not intentionally seeking out a “gay movie” like some of us might be. Some quick facts:
Out of the 101 releases from the major studios in 2012, 14 of them contained characters identified as either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Male LGBT characters outnumbered female characters 63% to 37%.
Only 4 films out of101 (4%) contained any LGBT characters that might be considered “major” as opposed to “minor.” That is, they appeared in more than just a few scenes and had a substantial role in the film’s story.
Only 5 characters were people of color.
Here’s who they include as lesbian or bisexual female characters in their study:
A hippie lesbian couple played by Ana Gasteyer and Kerri Kenney in Fun Size. (“Though they only appear in two scenes, they had an actual role to play in the film’s plot and left more of an impression than any of the other LGBT people and characters previously cited.”)
ZERO. Only a character in Think Like a Man is called a lesbian because she doesn’t have a male partner.
Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) in Pitch Perfect. (“Cynthia Rose’s storyline is largely confined to the group plot, but she has the distinction of being one of the only lesbians of color on screen last year, much less in a major studio release.”)
Lesbian chef Sally (Lauren Weedman) in The Five Year Engagement. (“Though her role was limited to just a few scenes, the film established Sally as a unique and humorous character defined by traits beyond her sexual orientation and eventually depicted her in a relationship with another woman.”)
Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) in American Reunion. (“The returning character of Jessica comes out as a lesbian and introduces her girlfriend.”)
Walt Disney Studios
As you can see, none of these characters were one of the major roles.
The end of the report provides the honorable mentions of much more queer friendly (and smaller) film distributors like Focus Features, IFC, Fox Searchlight, Wolfe Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company. The number of lesbian or bisexual female characters and their place in their prospective films make a much stronger showing, as they are the ones that have given us films like Your Sister’s Sister, About Cherry, Peeples, The Perfect Family, Bully and Mosquita y Mari, among others.
But looking at the major six studios, it’s a reminder that we are still largely ignored when it comes to movies that hit theaters in every city in America. From the report:
The movies we make are also some of our most wide-reaching cultural exports; accessible and marketed to nearly every person in the United States, but also to billions more overseas. They carry our values with them, even if just in subtext, which is why some of the most restrictive nations ban Hollywood films outright for fear that they will affect a populace’s thinking if they watch them. Meanwhile, other nations (and some of the same) are actively enforcing or attempting to pass laws censoring any media that even acknowledges the existence of LGBT people. It’s important that Hollywood not be indirectly complicit in similar self-censorship, but we must also emphasize the tremendous potential for good that these films can have. In places where LGBT people must still argue for their right to exist, a popular film displaying even casual acceptance of an LGBT character can help foster understanding and shift public opinion.
So if we’re not in the movies some people are seeing, we might still be invisible. Thankfully television has been getting better, but it, too, has a lot of shows that are without major LGBT characters. If you take the top 10 fictional television shows watched in the U.S. there is only one with major gay characters:
1. NCIS CBS 21.6 million
2. THE BIG BANG THEORY CBS 19.0 million
3. NCIS: LOS ANGELES CBS 17.5 million
4. PERSON OF INTEREST CBS 16.2 million
5. THE WALKING DEAD AMC 14.3 million
6. TWO AND A HALF MEN CBS 13.9 million
7. BLUE BLOODS CBS 13.3 million
8. ELEMENTARY CBS 13.0 million
9. MODERN FAMILY ABC 12.7 million
10. CRIMINAL MINDS CBS 12.6 million
This year, however, Amber Tamblyn will be playing a lesbian on Two and a Half Men, which will at least add one more character to the otherwise very straight list. (Modern Family is the only one with two major gay male characters.)
In short, both industries need more lesbians. We could have told you that, but it’s good to see it broken down so we can rage with statistics in hand.