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LGBTQ visibility in Hollywood films at its lowest in 6 years, GLAAD report says

LGBTQ character visibility in 109 films released by major studios in 2017 was abysmal, dropping to its lowest level in six years, and none of those movies included a transgender character, according to a report released this morning by GLAAD.

As a result, GLAAD wants 20 percent of major studio films to have LGBTQ characters by 2021 and 50 percent by 2044, GLAAD said in a statement.

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GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index studies the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest film studios and their subsidiaries.

THE GLAAD  REPORT

In GLAAD’s sixth annual report, the group found that only 14 of the 109 releases from major studios, or 12.8 percent, included LGBTQ characters — the lowest percentage since GLAAD began its tracking in 2012. Last year, 23 of 125 films, 18.4 percent, had LGBTQ characters.

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But of that total, only nine of them were considered complex characters defined by more than their sexuality or had a significant impact on the storyline.

“With wildly successful films like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Black Panther’ proving that audiences want to see diverse stories that haven’t been told before, there is simply no reason for major studios to have such low scores on the Studio Responsibility Index,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, said in a statement.

PITFUL REPRESENTATION

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“At a time when the entertainment industry is holding much needed discussions about inclusion, now is the time to ensure the industry takes meaningful action and incorporates LGBTQ stories and creators as among priorities areas for growing diversity,” she said.

These crumbs of representation mirror a USC study last year that found LGBT characters account for a pitiful 1.1 percent of all speaking characters in Hollywood films, which researchers said represents “sustained and systemic problems” in the film industry. That 10-year study, the largest and most comprehensive analysis of movie characters to date, analyzed 39,788 characters for gender, race and ethnicity, LGBT status, and disability.

To achieve the 20 and 50 percent benchmarks, GLAAD suggested three ways to reach the goal.

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  • Construct stories with LGBTQ characters who are directly tied to the film’s plot. An ongoing problem is that LGBTQ characters in mainstream films are still minor in screen time and substance. For example, LGBTQ characters in the 14 films average less than four minutes of screen time.
  • Make LGBTQ characters and their stories clear; no subtext or no second guessing for audiences. Filmgoers may not realize they are seeing an LGBTQ character unless they have outside knowledge of a real figure, have consumed source material for an adaptation, or have read external press confirmations.
  • Comic book films must reflect the diversity of their source material. LGBTQ heroes in comics are abundant, but are almost completely shut out of Hollywood’s big budget comic films. For example, “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Wonder Woman” featured queer characters in the source material, but their identities were ignored on screen.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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