Recognized among Hollywood’s powerhouse studios, the Fox Film Corporation was founded by producer William Fox in 1915, subsequently merging with Twentieth Century Pictures (founded in 1933) in 1935 to form 20th Century Fox. Media magnate Rupert Murdoch bought the studio in the mid-1980s, making it a subsidiary of News Corporation. 20th Century Fox is now part of parent company 21st Century Fox. Among Fox’s most famous films are early blockbuster franchises like Star Wars, Alien, and Die Hard.
Aside from Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox has one of the slightest track records when it comes to LGBTQ-inclusive films, but it includes a few standouts in its repertoire. Myra Breckinridge (1970) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) contain some of the earliest significant transgender characters, though both depictions are arguably more sensationalized than true-to-life. In 1982, the studio released the drama Making Love, which was one of the first realistically depicted gay love stories ever made by a major film studio. Other inclusive films released over the years include Silkwood (1983), The Object of My Affection (1998), The Family Stone (2005), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).
Widest theatrical release: 3,856 theaters
This antihero movie follows the origin story of the darkly twisted and sarcastic mercenary, Deadpool/Wade Wilson. While director Tim Miller told press ahead of the film’s release that Deadpool was pansexual, the only references that made it to screen were played for comedic effect in throwaway jokes intended to emphasize just how outrageous the character is rather than any real sense of desire. Much was made of a scene where Wade and his girlfriend engage in pegging (a man being anally penetrated by a partner wearing a strap on), but again, the scene was played as a joke and as a painful moment that Wade himself was not actually wanting to engage in other than as a favor to his lover. The portrayal of a pansexual identity as a brazen or scandalous trait, rather than a lived identity, has real consequences for bisexual+ people. Because their identities are often misunderstood, bisexual+ people are less likely to be out to family and friends than gay and lesbian people.. The film’s star Ryan Reynolds has expressed interest in his character getting a boyfriend in the upcoming sequel; we hope this relationship makes it to screen.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
Widest theatrical release: 4,130 theaters
In this sequel to the 1996 original, the audience learns that Dr. Brakish Okun has been in a 20-year coma after being used by the alien invaders in the first film. His partner, fellow Area 51 scientist Dr. Isaacs, has been caring for him ever since. The film fumbled its chance for a meaningful story between the two men, as when they reunite there are some jokes made, but no affectionate gestures or “I love you’s” shared. Near the film’s end, Isaacs dies and the couple still does not share anything very significant. Compared to the numerous embraces the straight characters share, the lack of intimacy between the only queer characters is a glaring missed opportunity.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Widest theatrical release: 3,022 theaters
This action comedy included an extended kiss between the two female leads, but the exchange was only a distraction technique in order for one of the women to pass a weapon to the other while all the men in the room were preoccupied with staring at them. The framing of physical affection between two women as a distraction for straight men is a long running plot device that we would be happy to see never used again. The women are both straight, so GLAAD did not include either of them in its final tally.
MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES
Widest theatrical release: 3,008 theaters
After brothers Mike and Dave Stangle’s Craigslist ad searching for dates to their sister’s wedding goes viral, they get replies from a variety of people hoping for a free Hawaiian vacation including a lesbian woman and a man who shows up dressed as a woman. The man, Bob, replies it’s “not a problem” when his colleagues tell him the ad applies only to women. He then meets the brothers as “Lauralie,” and eventually takes off the wig, telling them he recently went through a divorce and needs a vacation. He offers the men sexual favors after they turn him down as their date to Hawaii. While it seems Bob is not actually a transgender woman, the joke here is rooted in trans panic. When Mike and Dave meet “Lauralie,” they are clearly supposed to be uncomfortable because “Lauralie” looks like a man in a dress, while the audience is supposed to laugh at the idea that Bob is actually a man “tricking” the brothers. This very clearly furthers the dangerous cultural narrative that someone who does not look conventionally female is a joke to be laughed at, and that straight men might be “tricked” by a woman who’s “really a man.”
Mike and Dave’s bisexual cousin Terry plays a larger role in the film as she competes with Mike for Tatiana’s attention, and the family pressures him to live up to Terry’s business successes. However, her story fell into some of the negative tropes we still see so often when it comes to bisexual characters. Terry bribes Tatiana with backstage tickets to perform sex acts on her. In another scene, she propositions two men for a threesome. The repeated portrayal of bisexual characters in media as hypersexualized undermines the truth that bisexuality is a real and valid sexual orientation.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, created in 1994, is a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox and specializes in the release and distribution of independent and foreign films in the United States, as well as horror films and dramedies. Fox Searchlight Pictures is responsible for the release of several LGBTQ-inclusive and Academy Award-winning and nominated films, including Boys Don't Cry (1999), about the murder of transgender man Brandon Teena, and Kinsey (2004), a biopic of the famed sex researcher.
A BIGGER SPLASH
Widest theatrical release: 378 theaters
This psychological drama follows couple Marianne and Paul who are unexpectedly reunited with Marianne’s former manager and lover, Harry, and his newly found daughter Penelope whom he is hinted to be sleeping with. Some outlets have read the Harry character as bisexual after a scene where he tells Paul that he is “metro sexy,” and Paul later says Harry would sleep with anyone. These lines could be seen as hinting on the part of the screenplay, but is ultimately more of a comment on others’ perceptions of Harry than indicative of his own desires. GLAAD did not count the character in its final tally.
ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE
Widest theatrical release: 355 theaters
This film wraps up the Absolutely Fabulous franchise that began in 1992, and that dated mentality was obvious in the script, which made several transphobic missteps. One such ‘joke’ involves the reveal that Edina’s ex-husband Marshall “is a transgender,” and continues downhill from there. Marshall’s wife, Bo, attempts to unbutton Marshall’s shirt while saying, “Show them your breasts.” Edina’s mother asks Marshall “when it comes off,” and the scene continues in that vein with several other tasteless jokes. In the same scene, Bo is wearing a large wig styled as an afro, and says that she is now a “black person,” making a ridiculous parallel between her spouse’s transition and her own assertion that she’s changed her racial identity. Later, Patsy and Edina flee to Cannes where Patsy goes undercover as a man and marries Baroness Lubliana, the richest woman in the world, to gain access to her fortune. In the final act of the film, Patsy removes her mustache and admits that she is not a man, but Lubliana replies, “I know. And I’m not a woman.” Patsy and Edina confer on the disclosure, referring to Lubliana as “him/her” and debating whether this means Patsy will not “need the strap on.”
This type of so-called humor exploits an already marginalized community and reduces a person to what body parts they may or may not have, causing real harm. When less than 16% of Americans say they personally know a trans person, the images they see in the media form the basis of what they know about transgender people. Lazy “jokes” like these are disappointing in a franchise that has always been more thoughtful about portraying gay and lesbian characters.
In a mid-film scene, a flight attendant says, “I hate how you have to be nice to transgendered [sic] people now,” in reference to Patsy. While the filmmakers have referred to her as a transgender character in past, this seems to be solely in reference to a one-off joke from the series’ original run about Patsy briefly living as a man until “her penis fell off.” For that reason, GLAAD did not count Patsy as a transgender character in our final numbers. In addition to Marshall and Lubliana, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie included cameos by several out celebrities who appeared as themselves, and Chris Colfer playing a gay hairdresser.
Widest theatrical release: 862 theaters
Demolition follows the story of Davis, a man who has lost his wife and turns to physical destruction to cope. He becomes obsessed with taking objects apart to learn how they work, and forms a friendship with customer service representative Karen, who is moved by his letters to her company. Davis and Karen’s teenage son, Chris, form a rocky friendship that leads to Chris eventually asking Davis if he thinks Chris might be gay. After Chris says that there is a boy he finds interesting, Davis advises him to stay in the closet until he can move to a bigger city. In the next scene, Chris goes clubbing with a male friend and ends up in the hospital after being jumped by six men. Chris says that “being myself felt good” despite the violence. As Chris never seemed to be actually uncomfortable with himself to begin with, it is disheartening that the film decided to use this kind of violence as a plot device.