GLAAD reports increase in LGBTQ+ movies, a decrease in diversity & no trans characters in 2019

GLAAD published its annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) on Thursday July 16th 2020. The study examined the 118 theatrical films released during 2019 by the eight top grossing US studios and their subsidiaries. 22 of those releases, or 18.6%, were considered by GLAAD to have featured explicitly identified LGBTQ characters, the “highest percentage of inclusive films found in the eight-year history of the report.” Paramount’s Rocketman, United Artists Releasing’s Booksmart and Universal Pictures’ Good Boys were among those films praised by GLAAD for their handling of queer characters and given Pass ratings. Focus Features’ Downton Abbey, which is nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, was not given a rating but the release was commended for its handling of a storyline involving Downton’s gay butler, Thomas played by Robert James-Collier. Meanwhile United Artists Releasing’s The Hustle and Missing Link were among the releases which received Fail ratings. GLAAD found that 2019’s major studio movie LGBTQ+ representation marked a decrease in racial diversity compared with recent years, as well as a decrease in lesbian and bi representation compared to gay men.

For the third consecutive year, GLAAD reported that transgender characters “were entirely absent from major studio releases.” In examining output from the eight studios – Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, STX Films, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. – GLAAD did note some trans inclusion. In the end credits of Paramount’s Oscar-winning Elton John biopic Rocketman, GLAAD points out that a character is referred to as LA Transgender Maid. The report notes, “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.”

Although STX Films’ Hustlers featured a trans actor, Trace Lysette, in the ensemble GLAAD did not include it in their tally of LGBTQ inclusive films because the character she played was not established as trans. The report notes: “Trace Lysette, an actress and advocate who is also transgender, plays Tracey, one of the dancers at the strip club where the film largely takes place. The Tracey character is one of several fringe ensemble members, and the character does not have a very developed backstory.” Similarly, GLAAD didn’t include Universal Pictures’ Queen & Slim in their tally of LGBTQ movies, noting in the report that although the film features a character named “Goddess, played by Indya Moore, an actor who is transgender and non-binary…the content of the film on-screen does not make any assertions regarding Goddess’ gender identity”.

In terms of trans representation, GLAAD compared major movie studio output with “the same time period on TV” which “has seen the premiere of FX’s history making Pose, television’s first transgender superhero on The CW’s Supergirl, and transgender men stepping into series regular roles on FOX’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, and Showtime’s The L Word and Work in Progress.”

In analysing the LGBTQ representation in Walt Disney Studios’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, GLAAD noted that despite pre-release publicity, it “turned out to be a split second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kiss between two women Resistance fighters as the camera pans over them during the climactic celebration of the Resistance victory”. The report continues: “this kind of moment feels behind the times when compared to the strides that TV and indie film have made.” GLAAD described the gay representation in Disney’s Avengers: Endgame as “ultimately another blink-and-you-might-miss-it moment, inconsequential to the plot, with the character on screen for less than one minute.”

To read GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index in full head to the GLAAD website.

The 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards will take place virtually on Thursday July 30th, streaming on GLAAD’s Facebook and YouTube channel at 8pm ET. It will then air on Logo on Monday August 3rd at 8pm ET. Special appearances will be made by stars including Lil Nas X, Dolly Parton, Dan Levy, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union.

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