Every year GLAAD releases the reports of how six major studios and their smaller divisions show up for LGBT diversity: 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers. This year’s report was released today, and the organization found there was a whopping zero percent uptick in LGBT characters in films. Only 20 of 114 films released in 2015 included any kind of queer or trans character. From the report:
Less than a quarter of inclusive films (23%) featured lesbian characters and less than one-tenth (9%) included bisexual characters. This is a near reversal from last year’s report, which found 30% of inclusive films featured bisexual characters and only 10% included lesbians.
The lesbian and bisexual characters and themes in these films are largely relegated to tiny roles, brief mentions or jokes. The only exceptions were Freeheld (Lionsgate), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony), Grandma (Sony) and The Danish Girl (Focus Features/Universal). Every lesbian/bi character in these films was white.
Smaller lesbian characters in Chi-Raq (Lionsgate), Stonewall (Lionsgate) and Pitch Perfect 2 were counted, although their inclusion in their respective films was mostly as part of an ensemble. Chi-Raq‘s Thelma (played by out actress Snoop Pearson) had one line about her being “a dyke,” while Joanne Vannicola‘s part as Sam, the lone lesbian of Stonewall, was given a few bits of dialogue in a film that largely erased the LGBT women and people of color in its retelling of historic events. Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) returned from the original Pitch Perfect to have the same minimal amount of story in the sequel, though she did mention an engagement toward the end of the film.
Out actress Amber Heard‘s character in Magic Mike XXL was praised for her bisexual identity (mentioned once with the line “I’m not going through a guy phase right now”), but mostly because the rest of the film was gay-friendly with a lack of homophobia between a group of male strippers and their visit to a drag night.
And while there were some lesbian characters in out writer Paula Pell‘s Sisters (one played by Kate McKinnon), GLAAD writes “the Universal film can be added to the list of comedies that include LGBT characters only in service of jokes rooted in shallow stereotypes. Had Sisters hewed more closely to Pell’s real story, the film could have also had a leading lesbian character, which remains incredibly rare, particularly in comedy.”
Also at Universal, Hot Pursuit‘s faux lesbianism, with Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara pretending to be a couple to get out of a dangerous situation, got them no real points on the tally. Similarly, Trainwreck (also Universal) was included in the SRI but ultimately not counted in the final count of bisexual characters as they found it more of “a throwaway joke than a real indication of her romantic feelings.”
Another Focus Features offering, Maps to the Stars, included a bisexual threesome in an effort for the character, Havana (played by Julianne Moore), “to get on the producer’s good side.” It ends poorly when she “has a hallucination that the woman turns into her mother,” runs out and leaves, saying, “I’m sorry, I just got uncomfortable. I guess I’m a lousy dyke.” GLAAD ultimately decided not to include her in the bisexual characters tally, as it was “more situational or transactional than representative of genuine interest.”
In some more positive representation, two films included lesbian couples, albeit briefly. There’s “a passing appearance by a lesbian couple with their own children at the parade” in the WB film Batkid Begins, as well as a couple (Maddie Corman and Miriam Shor) who makes a visit during an open house for an elderly couple’s apartment in 5 Flights Up (Focus/Universal). GLAAD writes “the elder couple recognizes similarities between what the women have gone through and their own experience getting married decades ago as an interracial couple. Though the women only had two minutes of screen time, it was nevertheless a positive moment of inclusion.”
Hollywood continues to have a diversity problem, and what’s clear from GLAAD’s annual report is that it doesn’t seem to be getting much better just yet. Women, POC and LGBTs are still not given any kind of opportunity to carry films and even when they do show up in major movies, they are relegated to background characters with little development or based on stereotypes.
But what’s difficult is getting them to even acknowledge there needs to be a change. Warner Bros., for example, took home the most Oscars this year, with six wins. They likely look to that kind of industry reward as something to dictate the future vs. their failing grade from GLAAD. Instead, they’re more probable to pump out more high-grossing comedies like Get Hard that has rampant themes of homophobia. (Oh and BTW, you’ll notice a lack of Walt Disney films here because none of their 2015 films included an LGBT character of any kind. They did, however, take home two Academy Awards.)
So will Hollywood even try to better itself and reflect more of the world within its storytelling? The future doesn’t look so bright. But on the plus side, we are able to access independent film more than ever with streaming services and the internet, and if we are willing to pay upwards of $20 to go to the chain movie theaters and see a film that doesn’t care if it speaks to us or not, we can also afford the $5-$15 it might cost to purchase a lesbian-made movie or episode. You’ll get more out of it; I guarantee it.