From the Office of the President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis
Last year, GLAAD released the milestone tenth edition of its annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), which tracks the quantity, quality, and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) characters in theatrical film slates from major studios. Over the last decade, the percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films grew by 50 percent, or 1.5 times, in large part due to GLAAD’s annual study, alongside work with studio leadership and creatives.
We know that the stories told in those films have been an inextricable part of a culture-shift seen and experienced by the LGBTQ community with support for LGBTQ people and acceptance at an all-time high. More people are now empowered to live authentically and openly; 1 in 5 members of Gen Z are LGBT per Gallup. MRI-Simmons polling found that LGBTQ-inclusive entertainment is important to over 2 in 5 of all American adults. Their July 2023 study showed that half of American adults say they like to see transgender or nonbinary characters in film and TV, and 42 percent of American adults agree it is important to them that the content they watch include characters who represent the LGBTQ community.
Hollywood has accelerated acceptance for LGBTQ people worldwide with stories including Blockers, Love, Simon, Booksmart, Strange World, Bros, Fire Island, Anything’s Possible, and many more.
The runaway success of the new queer rom-com Red, White, & Royal Blue proves that LGBTQ stories are a win for the bottom line when paired with meaningful marketing and publicity budgets – the title was the number one movie worldwide on Prime Video in its opening weekend and sparked a “huge surge of new Prime membership” sign ups per reporting by Amazon. As GLAAD looks towards progress needed in the next decade of LGBTQ films with this 11th edition of our annual study, there is incredible opportunity for outstanding, groundbreaking, and diverse characters and stories. As audiences have more choices than ever on what to watch, these stories will continue to change culture and win those audiences as subscribers and theatergoers.
It’s no secret that the entertainment industry at-large is in a time of consequential change. The first decade of GLAAD’s SRI focused on films which were released theatrically from major studio distributors. As studios experiment with new models of distribution for films and audiences’ habits to continue to evolve, this was the time to update our study to also track the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people from major streaming services reaching mass audiences. GLAAD analyzed the 2022 slates of ten top studio distributors and their subsidiary labels to see where LGBTQ characters are being featured and identify priorities for increasing and improving LGBTQ storytelling.
As the scope of this study widened, it became clear that this edition would also feature a notable first. For the first time, three studios have earned a grade of “Good” based on the quality, quantity, and diversity of the distributor’s LGBTQ-inclusive films – A24, NBCUniversal, and The Walt Disney Company (No studio has ever received an “Excellent” rating). In particular, The Walt Disney Company, the only distributor tracked which owns multiple streaming services, saw significant improvements against previous tracking because of streaming originals – including the GLAAD Media Award-winning Fire Island, Crush, Zombies 3 and more.
The outstanding LGBTQ characters and stories found in this year’s study are not possible without the work of talented writers, actors, directors, and crew on all levels, GLAAD firmly stands in solidarity with the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) in their efforts and contributions to fair and accurate storytelling integral to the LGBTQ movement. It is crucial that The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reach a fair deal with striking writers and creators – that these talented creatives can return to work as soon as possible, so that the progress made in LGBTQ reprepresentation remains on track.
As we look to the next decade, Hollywood must deepen its work by investing in talent and resources to improve inclusive storytelling and marketing, as well as ensuring studio distributors use the power of their brand and platform to stand as an ally against discrimination and hate – something research has proven both consumers and employees want to see.
GLAAD research shows that seven in 10 non-LGBTQ adults believe companies should publicly support the LGBTQ community. Further, U.S. employees 18-34 are 5X more likely to want to work at a company that publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expanding and protecting LGBTQ rights. American consumers are also interested in purchasing from companies who support the community and are twice as likely to buy or use a brand if the brand publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expanding and protecting LGBTQ rights per polling from the Edelman Trust Institute. Hollywood needs to stand with the community.
While some studios and parent companies continued to donate to anti-LGBTQ politicians at negligible levels or not at all, parent companies for NBC Universal and The Walt Disney Company both contributed significant donations to anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and committees in states that are increasingly hostile for LGBTQ people. These donations are a disappointing step from companies who created outstanding LGBTQ stories. Of note, Disney suspended all political donations in Florida in March of 2022. We’d like to see all corporations reexamine their political giving strategies to align with their overall stated inclusion efforts and impactful storytelling.
The GLAAD Media Institute (GMI) continues to serve as a unique center of excellence and a resource to the creative community and our partners at studio distributors and production companies. Of those inclusive films tracked in this year’s study, our GMI consulted on the content of 11%. Five of these titles were released theatrically and made a combined global box office of over $450 million. Our team looks forward to an eventual return to storytelling when all parties are fairly supported and strong partnerships throughout the next decade of great LGBTQ movies that will change culture.
As this year’s SRI shows, there is significant work to be done today if distributors hope to be in a better place and remain relevant to a quickly growing population when the SRI closes its second decade in 2033.
Thank you for your support.