Hollywood has been making steady progress toward including more LBGTQ characters into its storylines, according to the latest report from GLAAD, but SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher says that those gains are in jeopardy because of the studios’ intransigence in reaching a fair deal to end the ongoing strikes by actors and writers.
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GLAAD, the nation’s leading LGBTQ civil rights organization, is teaming up with SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild to unveil its new “Studio Responsibility Index” at a press conference later this morning. SAG-AFTRA’s press invitation noted that it would be a “joint event … to challenge film studio leadership on their commitments to the LGBTQ community and audiences at-large and outline the critical need to reach a fair deal and get striking creators and writers at all levels back to work, or risk erasing gains made in LGBTQ representation in recent years.”
“Right now, there’s a very tiny but loud segment of our population that’s hard at work spreading hate and fear while attempting to squash all storytelling that showcases the full, beautiful reality of the human experience,” Drescher said in a statement. “Seeing diverse representation on screen is vital for empowering everyone to embrace their authentic selves.
“Sadly, the longer the AMPTP companies keep the entertainment industry shut down by refusing to come back to the bargaining table, the more risk there is for disrupting the progress that’s been made in terms of inclusive representation. Let’s make a deal and end this stalemate so we can continue sharing diverse stories and create a more hopeful, empathetic society for today’s young people.”
According to GLAAD’s latest report, “Over the last decade, the percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films grew by 50%, or 1.5 times, in large part due to GLAAD’s annual study, alongside work with studio leadership and creatives.”
Of the 350 films surveyed from last year, 100 (28.6%) included at least one identifiably LGBTQ character, which according to the report are “the highest number and percentage recorded in the 11 years GLAAD has conducted this study.” The report notes, however, that this must be considered through “the context that the number of films tracked has exponentially increased this year under new methodology,” which for the first time includes the streaming services.
Other “record highs” attained in 2022 included the number of non-binary characters portrayed in a single year (10); the number of transgender characters (12), and the number of LGBTQ characters portrayed with disabilities (11). The report, however, noted that at only 4%, this “vastly underrepresents the actual population of queer people with disabilities.” And only one of those characters was living with HIV.
Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president & CEO, said: “At a time when the LGBTQ community is under unprecedented cultural and political attacks, it is more important than ever to hold film studios accountable for how our community is represented on-screen. The LGBTQ characters and stories found in this year’s study would not exist without the work of talented writers, actors, directors, and crew on all levels and GLAAD firmly stands in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America in their efforts and contributions to fair and accurate storytelling integral to the LGBTQ movement.
“It is crucial that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reach a fair deal with striking writers and performers – that these talented creatives can return to work as soon as possible, so that the progress made in LGBTQ representation remains on track. LGBTQ stories told through film have a powerful and inextricable link to culture-change. With more people than ever now empowered to live authentically and openly, the cost of lost progress in LGBTQ representation on-screen means erasure. As the LGBTQ movement has always been, this is a fight and a demand to exist.”
GLAAD’s survey, which included a report card on each of the top 10 studio distributors and their subsidiary labels, aimed to see how, and how often, LGBTQ characters are featured. The 10 distributors tracked are: A24, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Global, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Discovery.
Based on the overall quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ representation in a company’s total slate of films, a grade was then assigned to each distributor: Excellent, Good, Fair, Insufficient, Poor, or Failing.
No studio has ever received an “Excellent” grade, but for the first time in the index’s 11-year history, three studios – The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, and A24 – all received “Good” grades in the same year.
Lionsgate was the only company that got a “Failing” grade – the worst rating handed out – and AppleTV+ was the only company rated “Poor.” Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. Discovery both got “Insufficient” grades, while Netflix, Amazon Studios and Paramount Global all received “Fair” ratings.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Over half (57%) of LGBTQ characters clocked in at under five minutes of screen time.
- GLAAD counted 292 LGBTQ characters across the 100 LGBTQ-inclusive films. Of those characters, 117 (40%) are characters of color. While LGBTQ characters increased in films over the previous year, the percentage of LGBTQ characters of color remained static (39% or 11 of 28 in 2021 films)
- Of the 292 LGBTQ characters counted, 163 of them were men, 119 were women, and 10 were non-binary. Seven of the women characters and six of the men characters were transgender.
- 21 of the 100 inclusive films (21%) GLAAD counted included bisexual characters. This is up from two films in the previous index, though Gallup polling shows bisexual+ people make up 58% of the community.
- 12 of the 100 inclusive films (12%) GLAAD counted included transgender characters.
- 11 LGBTQ characters (4%) were counted with a disability.
- Only one of those characters (<1% overall) portrayed someone living with HIV.
The report also found that “89% of young LGBTQ people report that seeing LGBTQ inclusion in film and TV is one of the top factors in feeling positively about their identity, per 2022 research from The Trevor Project.” It also reported that 77% of the LGBTQ-inclusive films surveyed passed GLAAD’s four-point Vito Russo Test.
The Vito Russo Test, which gets its name from GLAAD co-founder and The Celluloid Closet author Vito Russo, offers a pass/fail test for cinematic portrayals of LGBTQ characters.
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