More films need to include substantive and nuanced LGBT characters which pass the Vito Russo Test. However, passing the test does not mean that a film is not problematic or offensive in its portrayal of LGBT people as several films tracked in this report prove. Here are some observations and additional recommendations GLAAD has for Hollywood film to both improve depictions of LGBT people and stop repeating the same defamatory mistakes.
- The majority of LGBT characters in mainstream films remain minor characters, both in substance and screen time, or just cameo appearances. Of the 22 films GLAAD found to be inclusive, 16 (73%) include less than ten minutes of screen time for LGBT characters, with three quarters (12) of those clocking in at less than five minutes. LGBT characters are still too often included only in brief appearances, in service of punchlines or establishing an urban backdrop. Not only must there be a larger number of LGBT roles, but they must be built with substance and purpose.
- Four studios received “Adequate” ratings for their 2015 slates (Lionsgate Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Sony Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures) while the remaining three (Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Brothers) were rated “Failing.” Both Paramount and the Walt Disney Studio completely excluded LGBT characters in their 2015 film slates. Additionally, this marks the first time a major studio has had zero inclusive films since the first year GLAAD introduced this report, which tracked the 2012 releases by six major studios including one with no content. That said, “Adequate” is no longer adequate. Beginning in next year’s fifth annual SRI, GLAAD will be holding studios to a higher standard to reflect the quality and quantity of LGBT representation we are now seeing in other media. Films must do better to include LGBT characters in roles directly tied to plot and which reflect the wide diversity of our community, including people of color, those living with disabilities, and a variety of geographical and ideological backgrounds.
- The racial diversity of LGBT characters remains dismal across all media platforms, but film sadly took a step back this year with a near seven-percentage point drop in LGBT characters of color. Too often, these characters are isolated tokens, burdened with representing multiple communities through the view of one person, shutting down opportunities for unique storytelling which would allow a wider audience to see themselves reflected as a real and integral part of the world. There is not just one LGBT experience and there are plenty of diverse and groundbreaking stories about the LGBT community yet to be told. Creators must tell the stories of our large and diverse community through the eyes of more than one character, thereby creating opportunities for compelling storylines.
- One of the most telling signs that Hollywood film is shockingly far behind other media in terms of depictions of LGBT people is the dearth of transgender characters. While there were no recognizable transgender characters in films tracked in 2014, the lone character found in the 2015 mainstream releases was not an improvement. Warner Brothers’ Hot Pursuit included a brief appearance by a transgender woman, who existed purely to give the audience something to laugh at when her identity is revealed. Filmmakers should examine what message they are really sending when they rely on thoughtless humor to exploit an already marginalized community.
- This year, there was a noticeable resurgence of outright offensive depictions of LGBT people, which relied on gay panic and defamatory stereotypes for cheap laughs. Among the worst were the Kevin Hart-starring films Get Hard and The Wedding Ringer, which contain more blatant and incessant gay panic humor than we have seen in a Hollywood film in years. Significant defamatory content predicated on this type of humor was also found in the non-inclusive film Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Humor can be a powerful tool for holding a mirror up to society and challenging the norm, but when crafted without thought, it has much the opposite effect and bolsters ignorance and prejudice.