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GLAAD report card finds Hollywood films 'lag far behind'

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Patti Perret

GLAAD has released its annual Studio Responsibility Index on Monday, finding a dramatic decrease in the racial diversity of LGBT characters on screen in 2015 as compared to its previous report, as well as a lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream films overall.

The fourth annual report card, which studies the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people released by the seven largest studios during the 2015 calendar year. GLAAD found that of the 126 releases from those major studios last year, 22 of them (17.5 percent) included LGBT characters. That percentage was the same one recorded in 2014.

“Hollywood’s films lag far behind any other form of media when it comes to portrayals of LGBT characters,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO. “Too often, the few LGBT characters that make it to the big screen are the target of a punchline or token characters. The film industry must embrace new and inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant.”

None of the studios received a “Good” rating for their 2015 releases, GLAAD said Monday. Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Sony Columbia Pictures, and Universal Pictures all received ratings of “Adequate,” while Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Walt Disney received “Failing” grades for their portrayals of LGBT people. According to GLAAD, neither Paramount nor Disney included any LGBT characters in their 2015 releases.

The advocacy group also found transgender representation to be “shockingly low,” citing just one character in a 2015 mainstream release, whose “brief appearance served as a punchline to laugh at when her identity is revealed.”

The majority of LGBT characters that were found in 2015’s releases were minor characters in terms of substance and screen time, GLAAD added. Of the 22 films it found to be inclusive, 16 (73 percent) include less than 10 minutes of screen time for LGBT characters.

GLAAD also pointed to a “noticeable resurgence of outright offensive depictions of LGBT people, which relied on gay panic and defamatory stereotypes for cheap laughs.” It specifically cited two Kevin Hart films, Get Hard and The Wedding Ringer, for having “more blatant and incessant gay panic humor than we have seen in a Hollywood film in years.” Hot Tub Time Machine 2 was also mentioned for featuring “significant defamatory content predicated on this type of humor.”

For the second year, GLAAD also examined the releases of four smaller affiliated studios — Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics. Of the 46 films released under those studios’ “art house” imprints in 2015, 10 (22 percent) were found to be LGBT-inclusive. That’s an increase from the 10.6 percent in 2014, and a higher percentage of than that from the mainstream studios.

The report called for a larger number of LGBT roles “built with substance and purpose,” as well as ones with greater diversity (racial diversity remains “dismal” across al media platforms, GLAAD said, but films had a near seven-percentage point drop in LGBT characters of color in 2015).

GLAAD also wants to see more mainstream Hollywood films pass its “Vito Russo Test” in the future. Named after the GLAAD cofounder and film historian, the test examines how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work — whether it contains an LGBT character, if that character is defined by more than their sexual orientation, and whether the character has a significant role in the film’s plot. Only eight of the 22 major studio films that featured LGBT characters in 2015 passed the Vito Russo Test, or 36 percent. That number is a drop from 55 percent in 2014.

You can read GLAAD’s full Studio Responsibility Index report for 2015 here.