With mainstream films in 2018 like Love, Simon, Deadpool 2, Annihilation, Blockers and more showing honest, real depictions of queer characters, many might say that Hollywood is moving toward greater acceptance of the LGBTQ community. But a new report from GLAAD, or the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, says otherwise.
According to the organization’s annual Studio Responsibility Index, films created by major studios in 2017 featured far fewer LGBTQ characters than in 2016 and years prior. 12.8 percent of releases from major film studios (14 films out of 109) featured characters that identified as LGBTQ. Those numbers represent a 5.6 percent and nine-film decrease from 2016.
Of the 14 films featuring identifiably queer characters, nine included gay men, five included lesbians, two included bisexual individuals, and none of them featured a character who identified as transgender.
In a statement released with the report, GLAAD’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis delivered an ultimatum to Hollywood executives, demanding that 20 percent of films by 2021 feature LGBTQ characters, increasing to 50 percent by 2024. She said that with more and more young people identifying as LGBTQ and attending the movies on a regular basis, the film industry has a duty to portray what their audience wants to see.
“If Hollywood wants to remain relevant with these audiences and keep them buying tickets, they must create stories that are reflective of the world LGBTQ people and our friends and family know,” she wrote.
It’s not all bad news: Some mild progress was made in terms of racial diversity among queer characters. Fifty-seven percent of the queer characters featured in major studio films were people of color, while only 20 percent of characters in 2016 and 25.5 percent of characters in 2015 were non-white.
But the numbers still speak volumes about representation — of the hundreds of characters in major films last year, GLAAD was only able to identify 28 of them as LGBTQ, down from 70 characters in 2016 (which was inflated by a scene in the Lonely Island’s comedy PopStar: Never Stop Never Stopping), and 47 in 2015.
Part of the report includes the Vito Russo Test, a series of requirements created by the organization to analyze how LGBTQ characters were utilized in film. In order to pass the test, a film must contain a character that is identifiably LGBTQ who is undeniably essential to the film’s plot and is not exclusively defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of the 14 queer-inclusive films released last year, only nine passed the Vito Russo Test.
Ellis added in her statement that there is reason to be hopeful for 2018, but audiences should still be diligent in asking for representation from Hollywood. “Films like Love, Simon have helped accelerate acceptance around the world with many outlets covering the stories of LGBTQ young people who were inspired and empowered to come out after seeing the movie,” she said. “This is the unique power of entertainment — to change hearts and minds by sharing our stories, and helping people find understanding and common experiences with people who may not be exactly like them.”