Hollywood Still Sucks at Representing LGBTQ Characters

GLAAD found that fewer than 20 percent of 2016's highest-grossing films featured queer or trans characters.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, United States
May 25, 2017, 7:00pm
Photo courtesy of A24

Despite the overwhelming critical success of Moonlight, Hollywood is still struggling to represent complex LGBTQ characters in its major motion pictures. According to GLAAD's annual Studio Responsibility Index, fewer than 20 percent of 2016's largest-grossing films featured LGBTQ roles.

It's a small uptick from 2015—by about 1 percent—but the advocacy group says that's not enough.

"If film wants to remain relevant and retain an audience that has more options for entertainment than ever before, the industry must catch up in reflecting the full diversity of this country," GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis wrote in a statement.

GLAAD surveyed 125 films put out by seven major studios—Universal, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers—for its study. Only 23 of those films featured LGBTQ characters, and half had less than a minute of screen time.

Gay men continue to be the most-represented LGBTQ demographic in film, comprising 83 percent of the queer roles GLAAD counted from 2016. Lesbian women—who have long been left out of Hollywood—compromised just 35 percent of the films with queer characters, which was a 12 percent increase from the year before. Only one transgender character made it onto the big screen in those 125 films, and just like in 2015, "the character existed solely as a punchline," according to the report.

Moonlight—which won the Oscar for Best Picture for its depiction of growing up poor, gay, and black in Miami—was one of the few major films that featured LGBTQ characters of color on-screen in 2016. Last year, only 20 percent of the queer characters in the films GLAAD tracker were minorities, dropping from 25.5 percent in 2015.

Ellis told Variety failing to feature LGBTQ characters in film has real-world implications. The movies coming out of Hollywood make their way across the globe, to countries like India where queer sex is a criminal offense.

"Having representation, especially in the films that are widely distributed not only here in the States, they change hearts and minds," Ellis told Variety. "They allow people who are LGBTQ to see themselves reflected. That's why it's so important."

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