Started by four Polish immigrant brothers as a movie theater business in the early 1900s, Warner Bros. became a production film studio in 1923. Warner Bros. has produced several classic films including Casablanca, A Clockwork Orange and Goodfellas as well as the blockbuster Harry Potter franchise, and several DC Comics adaptations. In December 2020, Warner Bros. announced that for the 2021 year, they will simultaneously release all theatrical films on the WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max for thirty days beginning on the day of its theatrical run.
One of Warner Bros.’ most notable films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), included one of the earliest notable gay-coded characters in Sal Mineo’s tragic character Plato. In the decades since, other LGBTQ inclusive films from the company include Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Color Purple (1985), Interview with the Vampire (1994), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). Nearly all of those films were based on external source material that included LGBTQ characters. More recently, Warner Bros. has released inclusive films such as Alexander (2004), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), V For Vendetta (2005), and J. Edgar (2011). The studio’s slate in recent years has included stand outs like Tammy (2014), Storks (2016), and Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Isn’t It Romantic (2019), as well as notable lows like Get Hard (2015), Central Intelligence (2016), and CHiPs (2017) all of which traffic heavily and unnecessarily in gay panic jokes and other cheap punchlines.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Widest Theatrical Release: 4236 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
Birds of Prey picks up several years after 2016’s Suicide Squad shortly after Harley Quinn is dumped by Joker. After being targeted by crime lord Roman Sionis, Harley teams up with a group of women who become the Birds of Prey. The group includes Gotham Detective Renee Montoya, an out lesbian and cynical, alcoholic detective who is building a case against Sionis. There is also a minor role for Ellen Yee, Montoya’s ex-girlfriend and the Gotham District Attorney. The two have a contentious relationship and it seems that Ellen may have reported her to the Commissioner for drinking on the job. The film’s ending sets up a potential sequel or spinoff that would follow Montoya and the other women as the Birds of Prey team in their own line of films.
Birds of Prey also finally confirms Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in the DCEU. In an animated telling of her backstory, a quick montage shows Harley’s failed relationships and two of them are her with a man and then the audience sees her and a woman. Fans have speculated that the woman could be Poison Ivy, who is Harley’s love interest in the comics and in the GLAAD Media Award-nominated animated series Harley Quinn. There are several more DC films planned with the character of Quinn, including the upcoming Suicide Squad sequel. Though the moment was so brief that some audiences may have missed it, hopefully future films will introduce Ivy and their romantic relationship – a move that Margot Robbie herself has said she is continually “pestering” the studio to do – and make Harley’s queer identity a meaningful part of her life.
Many had speculated about a romance between Sionis and his enforcer Zsasz based on the queerbaiting and offensive stereotypes perpetuated in the film. The actors told Variety “there’s a want and a need in there for sure” about the men’s partnership and laughingly replied “more than likely, yes” when asked if they are gay. Based on the content of the film, GLAAD did not count these characters as gay in its tally.
Wonder Woman 1984
Widest Theatrical Release: 2218 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
This DC film is a sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman and jumps forward from the 1940s to 1984 as Diana aka Wonder Woman is now working at the Smithsonian. Diana and her co-worker Barbara are examining stolen antiquities when both make different wishes upon an item called the Dreamstone, with the often-overlooked Barbara wishing to become like Diana whom she envies. Even though some press outlets read the friendship between the two women and Barbara’s interest and near obsession with Diana as indicative of romantic feelings, GLAAD did not count either character in its tally.
In recent runs of the comic, Diana was canonically bisexual, with writer Greg Rucka saying “the answer is obviously yes” that Diana has been in love and had serious relationships with women on Themyscira. In one issue, Diana discusses the love she left behind, an Amazon named Kasia. Wonder Woman’s character and powers are grounded in truth, integrity and being forthright. Giving Diana agency to fully live her own truth and recognize all parts of herself as an out and proud bisexual woman would be in line with her ideals and make her a more well-rounded developed character. The announced third Wonder Woman film and the spinoff around the all-woman Amazon island of Themyscira should catch up to their comic book counterparts in including queer stories.
There are several upcoming projects from the DC Extended Universe from Warner Bros. In August, they will release The Suicide Squad, which heavily features Harley Quinn, who has been confirmed to be bisexual in the comics, the Harley Quinn animated television series, and last year’s Birds of Prey. Hopefully, in The Suicide Squad, Harley’s queer identity and potential romances will continue to be developed. Additionally, Wonder Woman is set to return in a third Wonder Woman film. The movies have still not included her bisexuality, and this needs to be part of her story moving forward. Warner has greenlit both Batgirl and Static Shock for big screen adaptations. Batgirl provides an opportunity to introduce lesbian character Kate Kane and queer and trans character Alysia Yeoh, who are both heavily featured in the comics. In Static Shock, the protagonist Virgil’s best friend is a gay teen named Rick who should also be included in the film adaptation. Justice League Dark is also in development at the studio which includes bisexual hero John Constantine, who can currently be seen on television in The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow. The DC comics include many powerful and fascinating LGBTQ characters in their stories, and it is past time for the feature films to follow suit.
Other projects in the works from Warner Bros. include the fourth Matrix film from director Lana Wachowski, who is a trans woman. Though there is no outright LGBTQ content in the previous Matrix films, they have often been hailed as important media by the trans community and this sequel could include queer and trans characters within the film. Warner Bros. has a sequel in development to 2018’s wildly successful Crazy Rich Asians, which featured gay character Oliver, whose role could be expanded. The studio has announced a new horror comedy film The Parenting from out director Craig Johnson, which is said to be an LGBTQ twist on the genre and in the vein of comedies like Meet the Parents. The adaptation of musical The Color Purple is still in the works and features queer lead Celie. Celie’s queerness was minimized in the original film but given the Broadway musical’s further explanation of her identity and romance, the film must follow suit. Warner Bros. released the film adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights in June 2021. Though there were no LGBTQ characters in the stage musical, the characters of Carla and Daniela are a couple in the film.
Warner Bros. still has three films left to release in the announced five-film Fantastic Beasts series, with the third film in the saga currently set for a July 2022 release. At length, we have previously addressed the straight washing of Dumbledore and his relationship with Grindelwald in earlier editions of this report. In summer 2020, screenwriter and author JK Rowling tweeted several anti-trans statements and published a nearly 4,000-word essay that spread dangerous lies and misinformation about transgender people. Several notable Potter stars and fan organizations have spoken out against Rowling’s hateful words. While Warner Bros. did release a general statement, they have failed to address the seriousness of her anti-trans activism, to challenge her anti-trans rhetoric, or commit to ending or amending their working relationship with her.