Founded in 1915 by William Fox, the studio was originally the Fox Film Corporation before merging with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935. Fox was bought by Rupert Murdoch in 1985, which made it a part of News Corporation, before the film studio came under parent company 21st Century Fox. In December 2017, the Walt Disney Company announced its proposed acquisition of the 21st Century Fox’s film studios, as well as several other divisions of the company. The deal is expected to close in 2019, dependent on regulatory approval. Fox is known for blockbusters such as Avatar, Star Wars, and Independence Day.
In terms of LGBTQ representation, Fox has had its ups and downs, but it did introduce two of the earliest depictions of transgender characters in the films Myra Breckinridge (1970) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Other LGBTQ-inclusive films from Fox include Making Love (1982), still one of the most realistic gay loves stories to come out of a major studio, as well as Silkwood (1983), The Object of My Affection (1998), The Family Stone (2005), and Independence Day: Resurgence (2016).
Passes Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 3,772 theaters
Alien: Covenant included husbands Lope and Hallet, members of the crew of the U.S.S. Covenant which is en route to colonize a new planet. The couple likely were known only to fans who searched out the short prologue film, The Last Supper, which more clearly established their relationship and included a kiss between the two. More general audiences probably had no idea the men were a couple until after Hallet died and the camera zooms in on their clasped hands, their wedding rings pressed together, as Lope whispers “my love.” Lope himself, and nearly the entirety of the crew, later dies. The film squeaked by in passing the Vito Russo Test as Lope’s death sets up the film’s finale, meaning that were he removed from the film, the plot would have been significantly altered.
It is disappointing that the gay couple’s relationship was only made clear after death given the graphic sexual talk between straight couples and their repeated use of “my wife” to refer to their partners. The small confirmation of their relationship did not have nearly the same impact on the audience as it would have if the prologue had been included in the film itself. Still, the inclusion of these characters in a major sci-fi action franchise, which opened in over 3,700 theaters, is a positive development. We hope this small step will lead to more substantial depictions of LGBTQ characters in the future.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 3,529 theaters
Based on the popular book series, Captain Underpants follows best friends and fourth grade class pranksters George and Harold as they accidentally turn their principal into the superhero Captain Underpants. In the twelfth and final book of the series, there is a flash-forward to the future, where the audience learns that Harold is married to a man and he and his husband have adopted two children. While the flash forward did not occur in this film, the ending did leave open the possibility of a sequel film. Hopefully, a future installment of the franchise will include Old Harold and his husband.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Passes Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 4,038 theaters
This sequel to the popular British spy-action movie Kingsman takes the action to America where the Kingsman work with the American Statesman to bring down drug kingpin, Poppy. One of the captives that Poppy holds is iconic out gay singer Elton John, playing himself. Though at first it seems to be just a fun celebrity cameo, Elton is actually instrumental in getting the heroes, Eggsy and Harry, in place to defeat Poppy. Of all the celebrities the film could have used in this stunt casting, it was a nice touch that their choice was one of the most iconic gay figures of this era. However, if this franchise continues, it would be nice to see queer characters in more than just cameo roles.
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 3,511 theaters
Snatched included “platonic best friends,” Barb and Ruth, who are vacationing together, and meet the lead characters at the Ecuadorian resort where they are all staying. The two have a background in security. Ruth shares that Barb used to be in special ops, and is now mute after cutting out her own tongue post-retirement so she could never be tortured for information. The film’s implication is that the two are a committed couple, up until the “platonic best friend” line. We wish Snatched would have just gone all the way and let them be a couple.
This November, Fox is set to finally release the long-delayed biopic Bohemian Rhapsody about Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, who passed away of complications related to AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45. Mercury is considered to be one of the greatest performers ever; this biopic has the opportunity to make a powerful impact by fully exploring his queer identity, long-term relationship with Jim Hutton, and HIV and AIDS diagnosis. Beyond that, Fox has announced the X-Men movie The New Mutants coming in 2019. According to the director, Karma, the lesbian character who was the first recruit and eventual leader of the New Mutants, will not appear in the film but will likely be introduced in possible future sequels. This is disappointing, especially as there may be slate changes in the coming years if the Disney and Fox deal goes through, meaning that future sequels may never come to fruition. Two other X-Men films are set for 2019, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Gambit. Psylocke and Iceman have appeared in past films in the franchise and could return, though their respective bisexual and gay identities have not been included on screen. This must change going forward.
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.
Battle of the Sexes
Widest theatrical release: 1,822 theaters
This biopic follows the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. The film also showed the personal lives of the two tennis players, and focused on the newfound romantic relationship between Billie Jean and her hairdresser, Marilyn. During the time in which the film is set, Billie Jean was still married to a man and very much in the closet, having to hide her relationship and her sexuality. Team costume designer Ted continually provides emotional support for Billie Jean and gives her an inspiring speech at the end of the movie, about how change is coming and one day they will be able to live freely and proudly out. It is important that Battle of the Sexes did not erase the sexuality of someone who is now known as a lesbian icon, and further, showed her in a loving relationship with a bisexual woman. Many of the queer stories that make it to the big screen still center on the experiences of gay men, and Battle of the Sexes was a refreshing change we would like to see more of. The film earned a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Film – Wide Release.
My Cousin Rachel
Widest theatrical releases: 531 theaters
This British drama, based on the 1951 novel of the same name, centers on a torrid romance between Phillip and Rachel, the wife of his late cousin. Phillip is initially suspicious of Rachel, then falls in love with her, then becomes suspicious and accusatory once more. At one point, he fears Rachel is having an affair with her Italian companion, Enrico. However, when family friends investigate Enrico, they find “he is more Greek than Italian,” meaning that he is romantically interested in men. While Enrico’s sexuality is more of a plot twist than anything meaningful, it is notable that in this period piece, no one seemed to judge Enrico for being attracted to men.
The Shape of Water
Widest theatrical release: 2,341 theaters
Romantic fantasy film The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute woman, Elisa, who works in a government lab in the early 1960s, and ends up falling in love with a mysterious sea creature who is being held there for testing. Her neighbor and close friend, Giles, decides to help Elisa on her quest to free the creature from the lab. Giles is a gay, out-of-work artist, whose only real friend is Elisa. Midway through the film, he unsuccessfully hits on a young man working at a pie shop, who immediately recoils. The man’s reaction is paired with his racist commentary towards a Black customer, and further illustrates to the audience how loathsome the waiter really is once he is not putting on his polite work façade.
Giles is a central character in the film – serving as the narrator in addition to his own story – and his plot feeds into the film’s themes of outcasts banding together. As so many films continue to leave LGBTQ stories relegated to subtext, it is worth celebrating that Giles was able to be out on screen and a point of entry for the audience who were called on to relate to the story of an older, gay man. The Shape of Water was an immense critical success, garnering four Oscars, including the coveted Best Picture. It was also a GLAAD Media Award nominee for Outstanding Film – Wide Release.
Widest theatrical release: 311 theaters
This comedic drama follows the titular Wilson, a lonely neurotic man, as he reconnects with his ex-wife and discovers the daughter he never knew he had. The film includes several missteps including anti-gay jokes about prison rape, and a woman complaining about her husband leaving her because he’s “a big homo now.” When Wilson is searching for his ex, he shows a photo to a sex worker (credited as Sinnamon) asking if she has ever seen or heard of her. After she replies in the negative, he asks her for a blowjob. Roxy Wood, a trans woman, plays Sinnamon, but since there is no mention of the character herself being trans, GLAAD did not count Sinnamon in its tally.