Major film studios did a pretty dismal job last year with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) representation, according to the latest report issued by GLAAD.
Just 18.4 percent of the films produced by the seven studios that GLAAD examined—20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros.—featured an LGBTQ character. Overall, the number of films with LGBTQ characters increased by only one from 2015.
Out of that 18.4 percent, 58 of the 70 characters that GLAAD identified in 2016 were gay men. Further, racial diversity in films with LGBTQ characters decreased from 25.5 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2016.
Nearly half of the mainstream films to feature LGBTQ characters gave them no more than one minute of screen time. Only nine films passed the Vito Russo test, which measures how well-rounded and integral a character is.
The organization rates studios on a scale of excellent, good, insufficient, poor and failing. In the five years GLAAD has examined LGBTQ representation, no major film studio has earned an “excellent” rating.
Universal earned the highest rating of 2016, comically still marked “insufficient.” GLAAD has been vocally supportive of the studio’s films like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which features an “unexpectedly well-handled subplot” involving one gay fraternity brother getting engaged.
20th Century Fox, Paramount and Warner Bros. all earned “poor” ratings behind Universal, and at the bottom of the list with “failing” ratings are Lionsgate, Sony and Disney.
GLAAD president and chief executive Sarah Kate Ellis told Variety, “The bars are not being moved.” Ellis points to the human rights violations currently being committed by countries like Chechnya, including kidnapping, torture and murder, saying a focus on positive representation in the country’s largest cultural export is more important than ever.
“Having representation, especially in the films that are widely distributed not only here in the States, they change hearts and minds,” Ellis says. “They allow people who are LGBTQ to see themselves reflected.”
Movies like Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, which won last year’s Best Picture Oscar, show the key in better representation lies with who is behind the camera. Jenkins wrote and directed the film with writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, and both pulled on their own experiences as gay youths growing up in the same Florida city to tell the story of Chiron.