As a writer, sometimes you write things that are very, very quickly shown to be false. Case in point: in May, I offered the argument that although we have recently been given “gay but only off-screen characters” and “blink and you missed it” gay moments in movies, perhaps—taking a VERY charitable view—we could see the silver lining as being that Hollywood is dipping its toe into the water for greater representation. Surely Hollywood had to be doing something right…right? But the same day the article posted, GLAAD released its 2018 Studio Responsibility Index and the only possible way to respond to that is some kind of angry gif like this one:
Superficially, Hollywood seemed to have done better in 2017. After all, we had “Atomic Blonde,” “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” “Battle of the Sexes,” and “A Fantastic Woman” on the big screen, not to mention a significant uptick in representation on TV. But…apparently that’s basically all we had. When it comes to representation in movies from Hollywood’s seven biggest film studios using their official studio banners and imprints, the results of the 2018 SRI should make you not only mad, but completely furious at Hollywood’s disingenuous lip service to LGBT visibility:
What this report boils down to is that out of 109 major studio films released in 2017, which cumulatively included thousands of characters, there were only eight lesbian or bisexual female characters. Period. (Going through the movie synopses in the SRI, I only count five named lesbian or bisexual characters: Adele Wolff from “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” (Paramount Pictures); Frankie and Blair from “Rough Night” (Sony Pictures); and Cynthia Rose from “Pitch Perfect 3” and Georgina from “Get Out’” (Universal Pictures). I don’t know who the missing three are.
GLAAD should really include a matrix in the appendix showing its characters and their coding at the end of its report.) And let’s be honest: Georgina doesn’t count as an LGBT character. She’s Rose’s grandmother Marianne occupying the body of someone who maybe got catfished by Rose or maybe was Rose’s heterosexual bestie, for all the viewers know. Of the five characters I just identified, only two got a kiss: Frankie and Blair, meaning that Hollywood’s seven biggest film studios, using their official studio banners and imprints, avoided all female same-sex kisses but for 0.92% of its movies. One in 109.
GLAAD also examined the releases of four smaller, affiliated studios—Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics—to compare content released by the mainstream studios and their perceived “art house” divisions. Of the 40 films released under those studio imprints, 11 were LGBTQ-inclusive (28%, or more than double their parent studios). This is up from 17% (seven of 41) in 2016 and 22% (10 of 46) in 2015, and substantiates the hypothesis, at least for 2017, that studios are more comfortable showing LGBT content in “art house” films rather than under the official studio banner.
The movies with lesbian and bisexual characters were “Atomic Blonde” (Focus Features), “Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight), and “Norman: The Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” and “Novitiate” (Sony Pictures Classic”). GLAAD further noted a few other releases from non-affiliated studios: “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” (Annapurna Pictures), “Thelma” (The Orchard), “Three Generations” (The Weinstein Company), “Princess Cyd” (Wolfe Releasing), and “Lovesong” and “A Woman, A Part” (Strand Releasing).
It is infuriating that as Hollywood gets better about representation on TV, it continues to exhibit absolutely marginal representation in its major studio films. GLAAD highlighted two other points:
This year’s SRI is discouraging, to say the least. Despite chatter in the news about needing more diversity on screen, Hollywood is relegating its diversity to “art house” studios and consciously cutting gay and lesbian content (Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok,” for example) for its major studio releases. It is also over-inflating the poisonous effect of LGBT characters on its international box office in order to justify its continued decision to avoid representation.
GLAAD’s response to its own findings was to call on the seven major studios to up their LGBTQ content to 20% of their annual releases by 2021 and 50% by 2024. To reach 20% is only an increase of about 8 movies from the current number, or one more per studio. As GLAAD notes, in its latest “Accelerating Acceptance” report, 20% of Americans age 18-34 identify as LGBTQ. Eight lesbian or bisexual characters to represent that massive US demographic is unacceptable. It’s 20gayteen. Come on, Hollywood. Step it up.