With its origins dating back to the founding of the Famous Players Film Company in 1912, Paramount Pictures was formed in 1916 when the company merged with two others. Paramount was then purchased by Viacom in 1994 and it currently remains under that banner. Viacom re-merged with CBS in 2019, making Paramount sit under the ViacomCBS banner. Known for big budget franchises such as Indiana Jones, Transformers, and Mission: Impossible, Paramount became the first major studio to sign a multi-picture film deal with streaming giant Netflix in November 2018.
Paramount released several LGBTQ-themed or LGBTQ-inclusive films starting in the mid-nineties, including Home for the Holidays (1995), Clueless (1995), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Brain Candy (1996), Kiss Me Guido (1997), Election (1999), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Next Best Thing (2000), and The Hours (2002).
One of the most significant LGBTQ films made by Paramount is the 1997 comedy In and Out which received substantial press for a kiss between Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck. The film was a hit at the box office and joins The Talented Mr. Ripley among the top 10 highest grossing LGBTQ films. In 2016, Paramount released Star Trek: Beyond, the third film in the new Star Trek franchise, which showed Hikaru Sulu with his husband and daughter. The inclusion of a gay man of color in such a large franchise was a huge step in the right direction for representation.
Widest Theatrical Release: 3610 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
This GLAAD Media Award nominated fantasy-musical biopic follows the life of legendary musician Elton John and his decades-long partnership and friendship with his writing partner Bernie Taupin, including frank and honest handling of John’s struggles with addiction and an abusive partner/manager. In addition to John himself, the film includes multiple gay characters. The credits for the film include a credit for “LA Transgender Maid,” but GLAAD did not count this character who was given next to no screen time or story. The character was played by a cisgender man. Without visibility into casting decisions, our hope is that the film’s creators did not intentionally cast a cisgender man to play a trans woman character, and perhaps named the character such in error.
John and his husband David Furnish, who produced the film, have spoken out about the process of trying to make a film about John’s life for decades, and the struggles they faced trying to work with other studios who wanted to tone down his story. Thankfully, the film does not downplay any difficult or unsavory aspects of his story, and presents John’s life in its full richness and queerness.
The film was censored by some countries with anti-gay laws, including Russia, which both John and Paramount spoke out against, and was banned in a small number. Despite this, Rocketman was very successful at the box office earning almost $200 million worldwide, and Oscar and Golden Globe wins for John. Bold storytelling with a queer character at its center who is nuanced – and a dedicated team of studio, director, and talent driving the film’s success – is just what we should come to expect from Hollywood in future.
What Men Want
Widest Theatrical Release: 2912 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
A gender-flipped take on the 2000 film What Women Want, What Men Want follows sports agent Ali who is cursed with the ability to hear men’s thoughts. She turns to her assistant Brandon, who happens to be gay, and he agrees to help if Ali will agree to help him become an agent. As part of her curse, Ali hears the thoughts of Danny, another co-worker who is having sexual thoughts about Brandon. Ali lets Brandon in on the secret, and by the end of the film, Brandon and Danny are dating.
Ali hears other’s thoughts including a man debating whether to go on Tinder or Grindr, a flamboyant gay man talking about how good he looks, and Ali’s friend’s husband admitting to sleeping with one of his golf friends. That final revelation turns into a dramatic conflict where Ali spills the secrets of several men. Unfortunately, this closeted hook-up is one of the secrets shared at the couple’s wedding, and the reveal is accompanied by dated, anti-gay humor that simply does not align with a movie that features a central gay character.
Widest Theatrical Release: 3838 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
In this animated kid’s movie, the main character, June, is sent to math camp. There is a scene with several parents dropping off their children to camp, and this grouping of families includes two dads with their arms around each other as they wave goodbye to their child. Though a brief moment, this casual inclusion is a nice addition, showing that queer parents are a part of this film’s world.
Since 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond, which featured gay crew member Sulu and a glimpse of his husband and child, there has been talk about further Star Trek sequels. Noah Hawley is set to direct the next Star Trek film, and has stated that the original cast might not all be in the newest film. If this is true, and John Cho does not return as Sulu, there should still be LGBTQ representation demonstrating the franchise’s recent progressive strides made in Beyond and the new Star Trek TV show, Discovery.
Set for a summer 2022 release, Paramount has a Dungeons and Dragons film based on the immensely popular roleplaying game upcoming. Many in the LGBTQ community play D&D, and it would be an incredibly opportunity to strategically include LGBTQ characters in the film and to leverage the passion for this game.