Four years ago, GLAAD launched the Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) to map the quantity and quality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in films released by the major motion picture studios. Today, we still struggle to find any marked improvement in the representation of LGBT lives on the silver screen.
An unfortunate pattern for several years, there remains very little consistency in representation of LGBT people in film. This lack of consistency is not only seen across each studio’s yearly slates (releasing both stand-out inclusive films and problematic representations), but also throughout each studios’ year-to-year performance, as we continue to see studios dropping from a rating of “Good” to “Adequate” or “Failing.”
What’s more, Hollywood films lag far behind other media when it comes to portraying LGBT characters, cementing the industry’s reputation as outdated compared to the groundbreaking inclusion seen on streaming series like Sense8, Orange Is the New Black, and Transparent. Given the steady and remarkable changes in the television landscape, both in the quantity and quality of LGBT characters, it is clear that what we once considered “Adequate” from the film industry is no longer adequate at all. Therefore, beginning with GLAAD’s fifth SRI in 2017, we will be holding these studios to a higher standard that more fully accounts for the groundbreaking inclusion we see continuing to flourish across other entertainment media.
Moreover, the overwhelming majority of LGBT characters that do make it to the big screen continue to lack substance and purpose. Too often, LGBT people are included as the setup of a punchline or exist as an isolated token character who never gets the chance to bloom into a fully formed personality. This lack of care can be seen across the swath of LGBT characters found in mainstream films in 2015, and also manifests in a historically low percentage of films that passed GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test this year. The film industry must embrace new stories reflective of the actual world if it wants to remain competitive and relevant. Lucky for them, there are plenty more stories to be told.
It is not enough for LGBT characters to simply be present; rather, these characters must be crafted thoughtfully and better reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community. Leaving LGBT people out of the picture – or including them only as a punchline – keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions. Hollywood must do better to improve the messages they are sending.
In future versions of this report, major studios’ slates will be rated on a five-star scale, from one star (“Failing”) to five stars (“Excellent”). This expanded grading system will allow GLAAD to more accurately report on the state of LGBT representation in mainstream Hollywood films. With this and future iterations of the SRI, GLAAD will continue to hold Hollywood accountable for the stories they are – and more notably, are not – sharing with audiences across the world.
Sarah Kate Ellis
GLAAD President & CEO