Gay Representation in Movies Still Lags Far Behind TV, Says GLAAD Annual Report

Sony and Disney get failing grades for their 2014 film slates in LGBT advocacy group’s annual Studio Responsibility Index

Last Updated: April 15, 2015 @ 10:22 AM

Walt Disney Pictures and Sony received failing grades for their representations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in 2014 as the rest of the film industry continues to lag behind its small-screen counterparts in LGBT inclusiveness, according to GLAAD’s annual report.

The 2015 Studio Responsibility Index released Wednesday by GLAAD found that in the three years examining LGBT representations on film, unfortunately little has changed.

“As television and streaming services continue to produce a remarkable breadth of diverse LGBT representations, we still struggle to find depictions anywhere near as authentic or meaningful in mainstream Hollywood film,” GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “The industry continues to look increasingly out of touch by comparison, and still doesn’t represent the full diversity of the American cultural fabric.”

The SRI — which tracks the “quality and quantity” of LGBT representations in mainstream films over the last year — found that of 114 films released by the seven major and mini-major studios, 20 included lesbian, gay or bisexual characters. There were no transgender characters in any of these major movies, GLAAD reports.

That proportion, 17.5 percent, is up slightly from the 16.7 percent of films that qualified the previous year.

Less than three percent of the U.S. population identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual in the 2013 National Health Interview Survey — the first and most recent to track sexual orientation (there was no question for self-identification as transgender) — so the film industry would seem to be ahead of the curve. But, GLAAD said, many of those portrayals were unsubstantial or stuck in the unenlightened past.

“This year, we saw fewer overtly defamatory depictions in mainstream film compared to last year, though they were by no means absent,” the report reads. “Among the worst were those in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ (20th Century Fox), ‘Top Five’ (Paramount) and ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ (Warner Bros.), all of which fed into outdated, defamatory stereotypes. GLAAD also found significant defamatory content in films that we did not count as LGBT-inclusive, such as ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ and ‘The Other Woman.'”

Of the 20 films that included LGB characters, only 11 passed the “Vito Russo Test,” a set of criteria GLAAD introduced to evaluate the quality of those depictions. Similar to the Bechdel Test for assessing the portrayal of women in film, the Vito Russo Test checks the LGB character’s vitality to the plot and whether the character has more dimensions that just his or her sexuality.

Warner Bros. was the only studio to receive a “Good” score from GLAAD for its 2014 slate, which the advocacy group said featured the most consistent representation of the LGBT community. The studio released “Tammy,” for example, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.

But that isn’t exactly a sign of better things to come, the report said, citing Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell‘s “gay-panic exploiting” “Get Hard” as evidence that Warner Bros.’ 2015 is already off to a bad start.

Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Universal all received “Adequate” scores.

Sony/Columbia Pictures received a “Failing” grade for its dearth of LGBT-inclusive films and a slate that included movies like “The Interview,” which contained a gag scene of rapper Eminem coming out as gay to play off “homophobic” lyrics in his songs. But the studio’s independent wing, Sony Pictures Classics, released “Love Is Strange,” which GLAAD applauds as “one of the most impactful films of 2014 to focus on a same-sex relationship.”

Disney’s “Failing” grade comes from its lone representation of LGB individuals, a cameo appearance in “Muppets Most Wanted” by pop singer Lady Gaga, who the report lists as bisexual.

GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, was founded in 1985. Formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the group adopted its acronym-only name in 2013 to better include its support of bisexual and transgender Americans.