LGBTQ Representation Climbed in 2018 Studio Films, But Trans Characters ‘Completely Absent’

GLAAD survey shows that 18.2% of major studio releases included LGBTQ characters in 2018, up from a low-point set in 2017

Love, Simon
Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox

The number of LGBTQ characters increased in 2018, rebounding from an industry low-point the year before, but transgender representation and racial diversity remain underwhelming, according to GLAAD’s annual survey of the major movie studios released on Thursday morning.

Of the 110 releases from the seven major studios last year, 18.2% included characters that were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer — up from the 12.8% of releases that included LGBTQ characters the year before, which represented a record low since GLAAD started tracking in 2012.

Twentieth Century Fox — the studio behind “Love, Simon,” last year’s hit romantic dramedy about a closeted teen boy living in Atlanta — and Universal Pictures received a “good” rating from GLAAD when it comes to LGBTQ representation; Lionsgate and Disney received “failing” ratings, and Sony, Paramount and Warner Brothers received an “insufficient” score. Of Disney’s 10 releases last year, GLAAD said none of them counted as an “LGBTQ inclusive film.” (Disney closed its acquisition of Fox, the most LGTBQ-friendly studio in GLAAD’s rankings, earlier this year.)

While GLAAD said that the increase in LGBTQ representation was a step in the right direction, trans representation remained “completely absent” from major Hollywood releases, according to the survey. The organization also noticed a “significant drop” in racial diversity among LGBTQ characters. In 2018, 42% of LGBTQ characters were people of color, marking a 15% drop from the year prior. The report, which is titled the “Studio Responsibility Index,” said there was another “significant drop” when it came to “Latinx queer characters,” with representation dropping from nearly 30% of LGBTQ characters in 2017 to 7% in 2018.

“GLAAD urges Hollywood to quickly move forward in telling stories of LGBTQ characters at the intersection of multiple identities,” the report said. “This also includes more queer characters with a disability, those of different religions, body types, more trans characters, more queer women, characters who are asexual, intersex characters, and others.”

The SRI pointed to “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” and “Blockers” as two examples that Hollywood should follow moving forward, granting its LGTBQ characters “agency” and not using them merely as a “punchline or a prop.” GLAAD also applauded “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Deadpool 2,” and Annihilation” for using diverse LGBTQ characters.

“While the film industry should include more stories of LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, studios are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films,” GLAAD president and CEO Kate Ellis in a statement.

LGBTQ characters received more than 10 minutes of screen time in 10 films last year, representing an uptick from previous years, but there remains “progress to be made” on that front, according to GLAAD.

“We know that inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for the bottom line. Audiences supported stand out LGBTQ-inclusive wide releases last year with both their dollars and social buzz. Nielsen found that LGBTQ audiences are 22 percent more likely to see a theatrical release more than once,” Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research & analysis, said. “The studios should recognize the power of LGBTQ moviegoers and the desire for stories that reflect ourselves, and create and market more films for this audience who is ready to buy tickets.”

GLAAD has called on the major studios to have 20% LGTBQ representation in films by 2021, and 50% by 2024. Four of the studios — 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. and Paramount — cleared the 20% threshold last year.

You can read the findings here.