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    Amazon Studios

    ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE
    Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali as Kelsa and Khal, Anything’s Possible

    SUMMARY

    Considering the quality, quantity, and diversity of films distributed under the Amazon Studios banners, GLAAD has given Amazon a FAIR grade. 

    Amazon continues to release high-profile film content onto its streaming platform Amazon Prime Video. Many of these contain LGBTQ leads, including GLAAD Media Award-winning teen drama Anything’s Possible, a GLAAD List script honoree starring a Black trans woman, and My Policeman, a GLAAD Media Award nominee that tells a decades-spanning gay love story. There are also several films tracked with supporting LGBTQ characters, such as The People We Hate at the Wedding and Something from Tiffany’s. However, there were still opportunities to flesh out LGBTQ characters into larger roles. United Artists Releasing’s two LGBTQ-inclusive films, Bones and All and Women Talking, both left something to be desired with their portrayals of a gay man and trans man respectively.

    HISTORY

    Amazon Prime Video and in-house Amazon Studios began distributing original content in 2013, followed by original films in 2018. Amazon began negotiations to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in May 2021, allowing MGM to continue operating as a label alongside them, and entered into a deal with Universal Pictures to bring their films to Prime Video and IMDb TV after a window on Universal-owned Peacock. The acquisition of MGM was finalized in March 2022, placing United Artists Releasing (UAR)— a distribution venture between MGM Studios, Annapurna Pictures, and MGM’s Orion Pictures— under the control of Amazon Studios. However, in March 2023, Amazon folded UAR into MGM, citing “newfound theatrical release opportunities.” In May of this year, Amazon Studios created Amazon MGM Studios distribution, an international film and tv distribution unit for Amazon and MGM projects.

    Previous LGBTQ-inclusive films from Amazon include GLAAD Media Award nominee Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019); GLAAD Media Award winner Transparent: Musical Finale (2019); Chemical Hearts (2020); GLAAD Media Award winner Uncle Frank (2020); GLAAD Media Award nominee Everybody’s Talking about Jamie (2021), and My Name is Pauli Murray (2021). UAR’s past inclusive films encompass GLAAD Media Award nominee Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017); GLAAD Media Award nominee God’s Own Country (2017); Every Day (2018); Anna and the Apocalypse (2018); GLAAD Media Award winner Booksmart (2019); Valley Girl (2020); and Licorice Pizza (2021).

    Note: Films distributed by Amazon Studios do not share their theatrical release numbers publicly and the company declined to provide this information for this report, as such these cannot be cited in this report.

    OF THE 12 LGBTQ-INCLUSIVE FILMS,

    2 WERE AMAZON STUDIOS

    WERE AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

    2 WERE UNITED ARTIST RELEASING

    Considering the quality, quantity, and diversity of films distributed under Amazon Studios and its labels, GLAAD has given Amazon Studios a FAIR grade.

    AMAZON STUDIOS

    CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: UNKNOWN

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS
    Catherine called BirdyBased on the novel of the same name, this film follows the titular Birdy as she navigates 13th Century England and its rigid restrictions for women. Birdy’s close friend is a boy named Perkin. Midway through the film, she begs Perkin to marry her so she is not forced to be with a man she does not wish to marry. Perkin refuses, saying he does not wish to marry any woman. Birdy asks if he would marry a man and Perkin’s ensuing silence confirms that he is gay in an unaccepting era. Perkin serves as Birdy’s confidant throughout the film, and is significant to her narrative, though his character is still a relatively small role. At the movie’s end he is seen talking and laughing with another boy, a hint of a potential romance in his future. Though Perkin was a nice inclusion in a period piece, we’d have liked to see his story be further fleshed out.

    MY POLICEMAN

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: UNKNOWN

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS
    My Policeman This GLAAD Media Award-nominated drama follows the relationship between husband and wife Tom and Marion, and a museum curator named Patrick. The film takes place in two timelines, the 1990s and the 1950s. In the ‘90s, Marion takes in and cares for Patrick as he is in ill health, much to Tom’s chagrin. In flashbacks, it is revealed that Patrick and Tom had a physical and romantic affair in the ‘50s. While Tom and Patrick are involved, Tom maintains a relationship with and eventually marries Marion. When Marion finds out about the affair, she reports Patrick to the police and Patrick is sentenced to time in prison while Tom is fired from the police force. Tom declares his love to Marion and they vow never to speak of it again. In the present, Marion confesses to reporting Patrick and tells Tom that Patrick was the love of his life, and he should be with him. She leaves Tom, and the film ends with Tom and Patrick embracing. This film is honest about the horrors and laws facing gay men in mid-century Britain, while still providing the protagonists with a relatively happy ending. It also padded out the world with more LGBTQ characters; Marion has a closeted lesbian coworker. Though the film often centers the straight woman and is not groundbreaking in its tale of white men in a forbidden romance, it still is a thoughtful story that celebrates gay love.

    AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

    1UP

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    1upThis film about an all-women Esports team includes Sloane, the protagonist V’s best friend, who is a trans woman. Sloane very casually discloses that she’s trans and it is not a major focal point of the film, just one aspect of her character. However, Sloane’s role in the movie is very much the sidekick to V; she doesn’t get a romantic interest like V, and at the end of the film, even though Sloane is the one who wins the gaming competition, V gets the credit for making the sacrifice that gets the team the win. Sloane does casually reference both men and women being attractive. It’s commendable to include a bi trans woman in this comedy about gamers, but it would have been a cut above to see more depth and nuance from Sloane as a character.

     

    ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    Anything's Possible

    This young adult film was based on a GLAAD List script written by trans woman Ximena García Lecuona, and earned a GLAAD Media Award. The movie follows a love story between Kelsa, a Black trans girl, and Khal, a cisgender Muslim boy, who begin a relationship in high school. The film is very clear about Kelsa’s identity, as she makes videos talking about being trans. Khal is explicit in his attraction toward her, and faces blowback from his transphobic friend Otis, who calls him gay for being into Kelsa. As the two begin dating, Kelsa’s friend Em, who had feelings for Khal, lies about Kelsa attacking her in a locker room, which leads to more transphobic outrage. However, Kelsa has a strong support system in her family, her other friends, and Khal, and though she pushes them away and there are misunderstandings, she is well loved and supported by her community. In the end, Em admits she lied and Khal gets into a fight with Otis. Though Khal and Kelsa confess their love for each other, they end up mutually breaking up because they are going to different colleges. 

    This film can serve as an example for how to center trans women in nuanced and intentional romance films, just as cis people regularly are, while still acknowledging the realities of living as a trans teen in modern day relationships and contexts. It’s notable that none of the transphobia faced was physical violence and that Kelsa retained agency throughout the film. More movies should follow Anything’s Possible’s lead by centering trans protagonists of color who have strong voices and agency in their own stories.

    DON’T MAKE ME GO

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: UNKNOWN

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    Don't Make Me GoThis drama follows a father, Max, and his daughter, Wally, on a road trip to Max’s college reunion in hopes of reintroducing Wally to her mother. At the reunion, Max reunites with his friend Guy and Guy’s husband Samuel. Though Guy is a minor character, he stays at Max’s side as a support system during the reunion and beyond, when Max experiences a devastating loss and goes through chemotherapy. This film is a decent example of casual inclusion in a larger narrative.

     

     

    I WANT YOU BACK

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: FAIL

    There are no LGBTQ characters in this romantic comedy, but a child that protagonist Emma teaches mentions that his dad is cheating on his other dad with another man. The child brings this up multiple times in the movie, though we never meet these dads. Additionally, Emma proposes a threesome with her ex and his new girlfriend, but it’s clear the two women are not attracted to each other, and do not end up following through on the act.

    MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: UNKNOWN

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    My Best Friend's ExorcismThis teen horror comedy follows two best friends, Abby and Gretchen, and their other friends Glee and Margaret. Early on in the film, Gretchen is possessed by a demon and sets out to ruin her friends’ lives. This includes planting a fake love note in Glee’s locker that she says is from Margaret. With encouragement from Gretchen, Glee confesses her love to Margaret, with Margaret responding “I’m not a dyke. But I guess now we know you are.” Glee is distraught by this and demon-possessed-Gretchen uses this as an opportunity to try to poison her while exclaiming “God hates gays.” Glee survives the poisoning, and eventually, the demon is exorcized from Gretchen. This interaction is not the only homophobic scene in the film: Margaret calls Gretchen and Abby holding hands (as friends) “so queer,” and a still closeted Glee says “that’s gross”; Margaret’s boyfriend encourages the girls to “bond” sexually so he can watch. It’s unfortunate that the one queer character in this film was constantly shamed for it, by the demons and humans alike. Many fans have read the relationship between Gretchen and Abby as queer, too, but the two say they love each other “like sisters” and both talk about their crushes on men.

    MY FAKE BOYFRIEND

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    My Fake BoyfriendThis romantic comedy of errors follows lead character Andrew as he is determined to not get back together with his ex-situationship, Nico. To help him get over Nico, Andrew’s friend Jake creates a fake social media presence for “Cristiano,” Andrew’s titular fake boyfriend. This, over the course of the film, goes awry when Andrew’s friends and family demand to meet Cristiano, and when Andrew actually develops feelings for a real man, Rafi, but has to keep this charade going. By the end of the film, the truth finally comes out about “Cristiano” and Andrew and Rafi get their happy ending. It’s exciting to see a romantic comedy with a Black gay lead that delved into the gay dating scene, and included supporting characters beyond the romantic interests, such as a nonbinary trainer at Andrew’s gym, and his lesbian coworker.

    THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    The People We Hate at the WeddingThis comedy follows an estranged family reuniting for their sister’s wedding. One of her siblings is Paul, who has a boyfriend, Dominic. Early on in the film, it’s clear that Dominic wants to open up their relationship while Paul wants to remain monogamous. When they go to London for the wedding, Dominic surprises Paul by arranging for them to stay at the home of Alcott, a handsome older gay professor. After a night out, the three disastrously attempt a threesome, which results in Dominic breaking up with Paul. Dominic tries to go after Alcott, but Alcott is more interested in Paul. At the wedding, when Paul is still distraught from his breakup, it is revealed that his now-dead father was never accepting of Paul’s sexuality, but his mother forced him to pretend to be on threat of leaving him. This hurts Paul and temporarily damages his relationship with his mother, but they make up by the end of the film. Paul is very much a main character in the film and his relationship drama is given as much weight as any other characters. It would have been nice to see Paul in a relationship at the end of the film like his sisters were, but he still got to have his major moments.

    SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: UNKNOWN

    VITO RUSSO TEST: PASS

    Something from Tiffany'sThis Christmas romantic comedy follows Rachel and Ethan, who, through a series of misunderstandings, leave their respective significant others to fall in love with one another. Rachel’s best friend is Terri, who is married to another woman, Sophia. Terri has significant screentime and is an active presence in Rachel’s life. Terri and Sophia’s marriage is portrayed tenderly and the two are seen showing physical affection in most of their scenes. Though they are not the main characters of this film, including a prominent Black lesbian couple is a commendable step and their characterization rises beyond typical inclusion of the “best friend” archetype in romantic comedies.

    THE SOUND OF 007

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: FAIL

    This documentary about the songs for James Bond films features a brief appearance by nonbinary singer Sam Smith, who performed the title track for Spectre. They appear for under a minute, as they are not one of the main talking heads in the film.

    YOUR CHRISTMAS OR MINE

    STRAIGHT TO STREAMING RELEASE

    VITO RUSSO TEST: FAIL

    This Christmas romantic comedy does not feature any LGBTQ characters. However, main character James does pretend to be gay to avoid advances from his girlfriend’s aunt. His portrayal of a gay man isn’t offensive and no one is homophobic, but it is disappointing to have a character fake being gay when there are no actual queer people in the movie.

    UNITED ARTIST RELEASING

    BONES AND ALL

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: 2,727 THEATERS

    VITO RUSSO TEST: FAIL

    This cannibalistic romance focuses on couple Lee and Maren as they fall in love and eat other humans. There is a scene midway through the film where Lee approaches a man at a carnival and flirts with him. Lee takes the man out into a corn field where they engage in brief sexual activity before Lee violently murders and begins to eat him. The man is clearly sexually interested in Lee before this, though Lee’s actions seem to come from a place of desiring the man for food rather than for sex. GLAAD did not count Lee in the final tally for this reason. It is later revealed that the man from the carnival had a wife and kids. It is disappointing that the only explicitly queer character in this film was both closeted and brutally murdered.

    WOMEN TALKING

    WIDEST THEATRICAL RELEASE: 707 THEATERS

    VITO RUSSO TEST: FAIL

    This drama centers around a group of women in a religious community who all share their stories of sexual assault and abuse. There is one transgender character in this film, Melvin, a trans man who was sexual assaulted by his brother, who is constantly misgendered and dead named throughout the film. He is silent throughout the majority of the movie until the end when one of the women, Agata, uses his correct name and he thanks her. Though there was an attempt for trans inclusion in this film, it is disappointing that this minor character was constantly invalidated and was defined solely by his trauma. However, much of Melvin’s role was as a caretaker for children; a trans man competently and kindly watching over children is an important narrative during this climate of attacks on trans people, specifically regarding their relationship to children.

    OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD

    Amazon’s adaptation of best-selling gay romance novel Red White and Royal Blue premiered on Amazon Prime video this summer. The film is a love story between the President’s son and the Prince of England and already has a huge LGBTQ fanbase. This fall the streamer will release Cassandro, following the story of “Cassandro, the Exotico,” a gay wrestler in the 1980s. Billy Eichner’s “big gay divorce comedy” Ex-Husbands will get an Amazon release. Drag king Murrary Hill is on the cast list for Grand Death Lotto, an upcoming action comedy from Amazon.

    Amazon has an adaptation of Alice + Freda Forever in the works, based on the true story of a woman who killed her lover. This film should be treated with respect and nuance, and avoid falling into tropes seen in villainous queer women. Amazon has the rights to hit Broadway musical Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her relationship with her closeted father and lesbian self-discovery.

    This summer, MGM will release Bottoms, a teen comedy following two lesbian students who start a fight club to get with hot girls. The film hails from out Shiva Baby director Emma Seligman. MGM will be adapting the novel Erasure which features a gay brother of the protagonist in the book.

    In the past, GLAAD had counted films released by the theatrical distributor United Artist Releasing in this report. This year, GLAAD is counting films distributed from parent company Amazon Studios, streamer Amazon Prime Video, and United Artists Releasing, whose parent company, MGM, was acquired and brought under control of Amazon Studios in 2022.

    Summary of 2022 Findings

    35

    Films released theatrically in 2021 under studio & official imprints

    12

    Total number of LGBTQ-inclusive films

    34%

    Percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films of studio total releases

    8

    Number of films that pass the Vito Russo Test

    theatrical

    18

    Total theatrical films released in 2022 under studio and official imprints

    4

    Total number of theatrical LGBTQ inclusive films

    22%

    Percent of theatrical LGBTQ-inclusive films of studio theatrical releases

    2

    Number of theatrical films that pass the Vito Russo Test

    streaming

    17

    Total streaming only films released in 2022 under studio and official imprints

    8

    Total number of streaming LGBTQ inclusive films

    47%

    Percent of LGBTQ-inclusive of studio total streaming releases

    6

    Number of streaming films that pass the Vito Russo Test

    STUDIO RATING OVER TIME

    4/5

    2022

    FAIR

    3/5

    2021

    INSUFFICIENT

    0/5

    2020

    N/A

    3/5

    2019

    INSUFFICIENT

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