According to a survey by the media monitoring organisation, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, only 14 out of 109 Hollywood films released by major studies in 2017 featured gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer characters. That accounts for 12.8% of the total releases. In 2016, the tally stood at 18.4% of the major studio releases that featured LGBTQ characters. The number arrived at by the 2017 survey is the lowest since GLAAD began issuing annual reports in 2012.
The study, called the Studio Responsibility Index, also found that of the 14 Hollywood films of 2017 that featured LGBTQ characters, the characters were on screen for less than five minutes in seven of them.
A positive development was that 16 of the 28 LGBTQ characters identified by the study in 2017’s studio productions were people of colour. These accounted for 57% of the total characters, a significant rise from 2016, when 20% of the LGBTQ characters were people of colour.
Gay men accounted for 64% of the total characters accounted for by the study. While lesbians and bisexuals characters found representation, none of the characters were transgender people, the study found.
GLAAD reviews films and analyses the representation of LGBTQ characters in them based on the Vito Russo Test, named after the film historian and GLAAD co-founder. To pass the test, a film should contain a LGBTQ character who must not be particularly identified by their sexual orientation or gender identity, and upon the character’s removal, the film’s storyline should be significantly affected. Nine films i.e 64% of the 14 LGBTQ-inclusive major studio releases of 2017 were found to have passed the test.
None of the studios received positive reviews. The highest ranking went to Fox, whose film Alien: Covenant featured a gay couple aboard the spaceship, and Universal which featured a prominent lesbian character in its film Pitch Perfect 3. Disney, Paramount and Sony received “poor” grades while Warner Bros and Lionsgate were found to be “failing”.
The study also noted that two of 2017’s biggest hits, Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman, did not feature queer characters in spite of them being present in the source material.
However, the study did not take into account films released by the specialty departments at the major studios, such as the gay romance Call Me By Your Name, released by Sony Pictures Classics, and Billie Jean King biopic Battle of the Sexes, released by Fox Searchlight. The numbers would have been more positive had the study included smaller affiliates of the big studios such as Universal’s Focus and Lionsgate’s Roadside Attractions, The Hollywood Reporter noted.