Hollywood Likes to Repeat the Same Tiresome Mantras
There are a few mantras that Hollywood seems to trot out at regular intervals to appease calls for greater minority representation on screen, including: one, that diversity doesn’t sell, and two, that gay and lesbian content won’t sell overseas and that therefore studios can’t afford to include it in their anticipated blockbusters. The first lie can easily be disproven. Consider the following massively successful movies that didn’t focus on white, male protagonists:
How Do Movies with Gay Themes Actually Perform Overseas?
As to whether lesbian movies can sell overseas, while it is true that countries like Russia and China are more likely to ban a movie containing gay themes, that’s not always the case. Nor are countries that have repressive attitudes towards homosexuality necessarily off-limits as markets. For example:
How Do Lesbian Movies Fare at the Box Office?
What about Hollywood’s claim that lesbian movies don’t fare well at the box office? That’s pretty much a lie, too. Lesbian movies perform just as well as their straight counterparts when compared to the same genre and budget. Here are a few examples:
So What’s Hollywood’s Problem with Lesbians?
The lesson here is, to a greater or lesser extent, one of willful misrepresentation (or at least intentional ignorance) on the part of Hollywood. It’s possible for major studios to say that lesbian films don’t bring in big money because basically apart from “Atomic Blonde,” no studio has ever invested tens of millions of dollars into a movie with a major lesbian character. Instead of a lesbian “Wonder Woman” (2017), for example, we see instead low-budget indies like “Princess Cyd” (2017), “Becks” (2017), or “A Woman, a Part” (2017). Hollywood then seems to use their small box office returns to justify its lack of inclusion in bigger motion pictures. But it’s unfair to compare those movies, which had shoestring budgets, to “Wonder Woman”‘s $149 million budget.
Similarly, Hollywood cuts even tiny references to lesbianism in characters in major pictures because of the alleged transglobal consequences, without acknowledging that there isn’t necessarily proof of this claim. Recently, news broke that “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” cut a scene that referenced a character’s lesbianism under the justification that the dialogue was not relevant to the story. Really? The movie is two hours and eight minutes long and they couldn’t keep a few extra minutes that would add more diversity and inclusion to the film? The argument is weak and the Internet is not fooled. (BTW: Valkyrie’s blink and you miss it bisexual scene was cut from “Thor: Ragnarok” under the justification that it distracted from some “vital exposition.” Was that “vital exposition” Jeff Goldblum playing the electronic keyboard?)
Overall, Hollywood has shown that it is more than willing to put A-List actresses in lesbian roles on a frequent basis when those roles are Oscar bait (“Carol,” “The Kids are All Right” (2010), “Notes on a Scandal” (2006), “Monster” (2003), “The Hours” (2002), etc.), but Hollywood is extremely reluctant to broaden those roles to any genres but drama and, rarely, comedy. When it comes to action blockbusters, making the likes of Captain Marvel lesbian or bisexual is still a no go, but as “Atomic Blonde” has shown, the success of a movie seems more likely to be predicated on genre, plot and the budget behind it than characters’ sexuality. So Hollywood, let’s test this theory. Show Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy’s non-heterosexuality in the forthcoming Harley Quinn movie. Then let’s talk. If not, your justifications for continued lack of representation are weaksauce.