Originally founded in 1918 as the Cohn-Brant-Cohn Film Sales in 1918, the studio was renamed Columbia Pictures in 1924. The studio gained prominence starting in the 20s due to its association with Frank Capra and ended up producing some of the biggest stars of the classic Hollywood era. In the 80s, the studio was acquired by Coca-Cola, where the company launch Tri-Star pictures, before Columbia/TriStar briefly became an entity, before being purchased by Sony in 1989.
Sony Pictures doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to LGBTQ-inclusive films. A political thriller from 1962, Advise and Consent, included a subplot where a Senate chairman is blackmailed over an affair he had with another man, before committing suicide. With this plot it didn’t exactly pave the way for LGBTQ cinema, much like Tri-Star’s Basic Instinct (1992), which faced opposition from LGBTQ groups including GLAAD for it’s defamatory depiction of lesbian and bisexual women. Some of the more inclusive films from Sony Columbia include Philadelphia (1993), Threesome (1994), and As Good as it Gets (1997). In more recent years, Sony Pictures has released Rent (2005), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), and Sausage Party (2016).
No Culpes al Karma
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 10 theaters
This Spanish-language film includes a montage of all the times when protagonist Sara has been unlucky in love; showing her with several men she had dated before making out with her close friend Inma when both were high. The moment is played as a joke and neither woman shows interest in women at any point in the rest of the film. For this reason, GLAAD did not count Sara or Inma in its final tally.
The film also includes mentions of a friend named Dani and her girlfriend Mer, but neither appear in an distinguishable way and neither Dani nor Mer are listed in the film’s credits, so are not counted here. Though No Culpes Al Karma painted a world with queer people, it was disappointing that the idea of being queer was more a punchline than anything else.
Passes Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 3,162 theaters
Sony’s comedy Rough Night follows a group of five adult friends who reunite for a bachelorette party. They believe they’ve accidentally killed a man, and drama and comedy ensues as the women try to deal with the aftermath. The film’s core cast featured former college girlfriends Frankie and Blair who, over the course of the movie, realize they are still in love. They get back together in the film’s climax, saying “I love you” and holding hands after being threatened at gun point. It is notable that their romance was given just as much screen time as their straight counterparts, and they got a happy ending and an onscreen kiss – something LGBTQ couples are often denied in film. It is also worth mentioning that the film avoided other problematic tropes we still see too often with queer women’s stories. Their relationship is never played for the male gaze; they actually explicitly tell a man off for objectifying their relationship in an early scene.
Despite some small missteps with transactional hookups, the film was a pleasant surprise for the raunchy comedy genre. The inclusion of LGBTQ main characters – especially women – is almost unseen in mainstream film today. While our reports have repeatedly found comedies are the most likely film to include LGBTQ characters, they are often treated as a reductive punchline. Rough Night demonstrated that humor and inclusion can co-exist without playing into the outdated and harmful stereotypes that so many comedy films continue to rely on.
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 4,348 theaters
Spider-Man: Homecoming (co-produced by Marvel), shows a different side to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as the film focuses on Peter Parker as a teenager and how he balances being an undercover superhero with school, friends, and his crush. The film has received praise for making a world more reflective of reality by introducing central characters of color in Peter’s friend group at his Queens, New York high school. Sarah Finn, the MCU’s casting director, said, “There’s a lot more work to do. We still need to see Latino leads, Asian leads, women, women over a certain age, people with disabilities.… It does matter, and I hope this is just the beginning.”
Finn is entirely correct that Hollywood desperately needs to include more stories focused on people of color, on women, on people of different ages and backgrounds, on people with disabilities. One thing she didn’t mention is that major studio films – and comic book films in particular – are nearly completely lacking in LGBTQ characters.
Homecoming actually included a scene that seemed to set up for the introduction of a queer student at Peter’s school. In the scene, Peter’s love interest Liz is playing a game of “f*ck, marry, kill” listing the men of the Avengers with a boy and a girl friend of hers. The boy (J.J. Totah) responds, “But what about Spider-man?” The film seemed to be setting up that they were playing the game together, but ultimately did not follow through on what could have been as simple as replying with anything that indicated his own interest in the male Avengers. As it stands, the sum total of LGBTQ representation that GLAAD has counted in the MCU films since the SRI began in 2012 are seconds-long cameos of out news anchor Thomas Roberts appearing as himself in The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 331 theaters
The sequel to the acclaimed dark comedy Trainspotting, T2: Trainspotting picks up two decades later as the group of addicts and criminals comes back together. Of the core four, the most violent is Frank Begbie, who breaks out of prison at the start of the film and is out for vengeance. Actor Robert Carlyle has claimed that he plays Begbie as gay, and that his violence comes from being closeted. In the film, Begbie shows no interest in men, and even though he cannot successfully have sex with his wife, that does not mean he is gay. Furthermore, this association between violence and being closeted is inaccurate and harmful to the LGBTQ community. GLAAD has not counted Begbie as a gay character.
Underworld: Blood Wars
Fails Vito Russo Test
Widest theatrical release: 3,070 theaters
The fifth film in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars continues to follow a war of vampires versus lycans. Semira, one of the main villains on the vampire side, sends another vampire, Alexia, to spy on the lycans. In a series of twists, it is revealed that Alexia is having an affair with Marius, the leader of the lycans, but Semira knows of this betrayal and was using Alexia as well. When she reveals this to Alexia, Semira kisses Alexia on the lips and then slits her throat. The kiss is short, and utterly unromantic as neither woman seems to be enjoying herself. Both Semira and Alexia have relations with men in the film and show no attraction to women. For this reason, neither character was counted for this report.
The highly anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is scheduled for July 2019, and could include an opportunity for J.J. Totah’s character to talk about his interest in men on-screen versus the assumed subtext of his lines in Homecoming. GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance report finds that 20% of Americans aged 18-34 identify as LGBTQ – if Peter’s school and peers are meant to reflect reality, the movie must include LGBTQ students. Sony will also be releasing The Girl in the Spider’s Web this November, an adaptation of the fourth novel in Steig Larson’s Millennium series, where main character Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is bisexual. TriStar, under Sony, picked up romantic comedy Happiest Season, co-written and directed by out filmmaker and actress Clea DuVall. The film follows a woman who is planning on proposing to her girlfriend, but finds out the girlfriend is not out to her family. Hopefully, this will lead to more romantic comedies revolving around LGBTQ couples.
Founded in 1992, Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) is the independent arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which acquires, produces, and distributes independent films and documentaries. Among the many inclusive films SPC has released since its inception are My Life in Pink (1997) about a gender non-conforming child; The Celluloid Closet (1995), a documentary about LGBTQ representations in film based on the book with the same title written by Vito Russo (co-founder of GLAAD); the Alan Ginsberg-centered story Kill Your Darlings (2013); Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited! (2013); Love Is Strange (2014); Grandma (2015); The Meddler (2016), and more.
Call Me By Your Name
Widest theatrical release: 914 theaters
Based on the André Aciman novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name is a 1980s, Italian-set romance between teenager Elio, and his father’s graduate student, Oliver. The film shows a slow build romance culminating with the two admitting their feelings for each other and embarking on a sexual and romantic relationship for the rest of the summer. Elio also has a fling with a local girl, Marzia, whom he does not share the same emotional connection with, but is still sexually attracted to her.
There are two additional gay characters in the film, an older couple, Isaac and Mounir, who Elio lightly mocks due to their flamboyant nature when the men come to visit his parents. The film ends with Elio distraught with the news that Oliver is engaged to a woman. Call Me By Your Name received four Oscar nominations and one win, as well as a GLAAD Media Award nomination. Out gay director Luca Guadagnino is currently working on plans for a sequel film.
A Fantastic Woman | Una Mujer Fantástica
Widest theatrical release: 190 theaters
The Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman or Una Mujer Fantástica stars transgender actress and singer Daniela Vega as Marina, a trans woman whose partner, Orlando, passes away. Throughout the film, the audience sees both Marina’s grief and the discrimination she faces from Orlando’s family and members of law enforcement, and how her strength and power shines through. A Fantastic Woman made history when it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, and it received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release. In its native country of Chile, the film and Vega have made a significant impact on the ongoing legislative fight for transgender people to be able to legally change their name and gender on identity documents. This is proof that representation matters, and shows the true power and necessity of including LGBTQ people at the forefront of film.
The Leisure Seeker
Widest theatrical release: 353 theaters
Older couple John and Ella embark on a road trip in The Leisure Seeker to avoid the consequences of Alzheimer’s and cancer, respectively. At one point, John goes missing and Ella recruits a man, Terry, whose cousin works at the campsite to help her. When she describes John as “tall and academic,” Terry flirtily replies that is exactly his type.
At another point, Ella questions her son Will’s possible relationship with his old friend after she finds old vacation photos. Will ignores the question and pushes to know where Ella and John have gone. For the rest of the film, Will’s sexuality is never brought up again, and it is left unclear whether Will is actually gay or if his mother just read into a friendship. As the storyline was so unresolved, GLAAD did not count Will in its tally.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
Widest theatrical release: 373 theaters
This political drama includes a great moment of casual inclusion. The film follows the titular Norman as he tries to make connections to important people and connect them with each other. He is successful in the case of Eshel, a politician who ends up becoming the prime minister of Israel, but as his power and corruption increases, Eshel begins to shut Norman out. Norman later meets Alex, a lawyer, who, when Norman inquires about her personal life, mentions she is a lesbian and has a partner. Alex appears again later in the film as it’s revealed that she is prosecuting Eshel, and wants to use Norman as an informant. Alex’s sexuality is not the sole focus of her character, rather her story focuses primarily on her involvement with the law. In a political drama that easily could have left out any hint of a personal life for this character, it is noteworthy that the creators decided to include a queer character as part of the film’s world. This is a good example of the type of character we’d like to see more films include – her queer identity is made clear on screen when she talks about her partner rather than left to subtext, but Alex is not defined solely by her orientation and has a unique story outside of just who she loves.
Widest theatrical release: 163 theaters
This 1960s-set drama focuses on a group of nuns during the time when the second Vatican council changed the rule and structure of convents. The film follows a young nun, Sister Cathleen, as she joins as a novitiate, and fears the very strict Reverend Mother. Throughout Novitiate, hints are dropped about young women who have had romantic or sexual relationships with each other. Toward the end of the film, Sister Cathleen fasts in an effort to feel closer to God, and then is nursed back to health by another Sister, Emmanuel. The two become very close and eventually have sex. Out of guilt, Cathleen confesses this to the Reverend Mother but refuses to name her partner. Emmanuel leaves the convent without a word, while Cathleen goes on to be confirmed as a nun. While many films have explored the intersection of religion and faith, these stories still tend to fall into the trope of positioning an LGBTQ identity and faith as in opposition to each other. There are many LGBTQ people who also hold deep faith beliefs – and many outstanding documentaries of real people advocating for LGBTQ inclusion because of their faith. We would like to see their stories included in scripted stories on screen, too.