By Nick Romano
May 23, 2019 at 10:00 AM EDT
Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox; Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight; Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros.

GLAAD’s latest Hollywood report card, which tracked LGBTQ visibility in movies released by the seven major studios in 2018, found a substantial increase in representation since 2017, but there are a lot of asterisks that come with the data.

With the latest installment of its annual Studio Responsibility Index, the organization found that 18.2 percent of the 110 films distributed by major studios last year featured LGBTQ characters. That comes out to a total of 20 films, a bump from 2017, which marked a major low for the industry (12.8 percent, or 14 out of 109 films) since GLAAD started conducting the study seven years ago.

This new figure marks the second-highest percentage of inclusive films found in the history of the report; 2016 was a shade higher with 18.4 percent, or 23 out of 125 films with LGBTQ visibility. Successes in 2018 included Love, Simon; Crazy Rich Asians; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Deadpool 2 (in the context of the GLAAD report, it is a success); Blockers; The Favourite; Annihilation; and The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

In a statement, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said that studios “are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films.”

But here comes the first asterisk: None of these 110 films released in 2018 featured a single transgender character. Eleven films featured gay male characters, 11 featured lesbian female characters, and three films featured bisexual characters.

There was also a notable drop in racial inclusivity (asterisk No. 2). Forty-two percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color (19 characters out of 45), and 58 percent (26 characters) were white. In 2017, 57 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color. In previous years, this figure had steadily declined to low of 20 percent LGBTQ characters of color in 2016. The numbers jumped in 2017, and 2018 marked another decline.

Now it’s time for asterisks No. 3 and 4: More than half of all LGBTQ characters from studio films received under three minutes of screen time, while the 18 animated and family-friendly films featured zero LGBTQ characters. This is the first time in five years that GLAAD didn’t count an LGBTQ-inclusive film in the animated/family film category.

In terms of a studio-by-studio breakdown, 20th Century Fox did the best percentage-wise, featuring LGBTQ characters in 40 percent of its 10 releases (four films). It was followed by Universal, with 30 percent (six out of 20 films); Warner Bros., with 22 percent (five out of 23 films); Paramount, with 20 percent (two out of 10 films); Sony, with 11 percent (two out of 18 films); and Lionsgate, with 5 percent (one out of 19 films).

It’s worth noting that LGBTQ visibility was even more prominent through specialty divisions like Fox Searchlight (with The Favourite and Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Focus Features (Boy Erased, Mary Queen of Scots). At a time when studios seem to be cutting back on titles released through these labels, it’s the specialty divisions and independent films that are offering the most representation.

In the studio-by-studio breakdown, Disney did the worst, at zero percent of its 10 released films, and that brings us to the fifth asterisk.

Earlier this year, Disney acquired Fox’s film and TV assets, putting the latter studio under the Mouse House umbrella. Since then, Fox 2000, which released the groundbreaking Love, Simon, was shut down. (A Love, Simon television show is reportedly in development for Disney+, Disney’s upcoming subscription-based streaming platform.) As for Fox Searchlight (The Favourite, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders in March, “The company itself will be the Walt Disney Co., but there will still be companies, especially on the movie side, with the Fox name. We will continue to make movies under the Fox brand and Fox Searchlight brand. And FX, which isn’t Fox, but sounds like it will keep its name.”

Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors behind several blockbusters from Disney-owned Marvel Studios, made headlines this year when Joe himself appeared as an openly gay minor character in Avengers: Endgame, and they recently said another gay character will be revealed in an upcoming Marvel movie. But Disney has had an uneven track record when it comes to LGBTQ representation. Tessa Thompson said a scene was cut out of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok that would’ve confirmed her character Valkyrie as bisexual, and Disney’s promised “exclusively gay” moment in Beauty and the Beast (also released in 2017) ended up being a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. As for Joe Russo’s Endgame cameo, some found it to be a milestone, while others felt it was a letdown.

Speaking to EW about this year’s report, Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD, said, “This uncertain, really quickly shifting landscape that we’re in in media, but especially in film right now, creates this real concern for issues of diversity and inclusion. We don’t know what’s gonna happen in next year’s report, necessarily, with how things are gonna play, but we do know inconsistency has been a repeated issue year-to-year in this report where studios will vary wildly in what they’re putting out, sometimes even in a single year. We really are monitoring that space every day at GLAAD and keeping an eye on that space, but all of the now-six major studios that we’re looking at in this report have several opportunities for standout LGBTQ representation in just what has been announced of their upcoming slates.”

Read the full GLAAD report here.

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