While there have been some big strides in LGBTQ2S+ on-screen representation from major Hollywood studios over the last few years, there’s still a long way to go. Representation in the media is essential – but, according to a new report, very few films released in 2021 were queer-inclusive.
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LGBTQ2S+ media advocacy group GLAAD have released their 10th annual Studio Responsibility Index, which found that only 1 in 5 major studio films released in theaters in 2021 featured at least one LGBTQ2S+ character – and nearly 70 per cent of those characters were cisgender gay men.
The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index
The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index looked at movies from seven film studios: Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. These studios had “the highest theatrical grosses from films released in the 2021 calendar year,” NBC News highlights.
While 2021 saw the release of queer-inclusive films like Eternals, Licorice Pizza, Dear Evan Hansen and In The Heights – just 16 out of the 77 major studio films released featured an LGBTQ2S+ character.
Those 16 films reportedly featured a total of just 28 LGBTQ2S+ characters. While 2020 saw 23 per cent of major studio films featuring LGBTQ2S+ characters, the percentage was down this year, clocking in at 20.8 per cent. Plus – only 28 per cent of those characters received more than 10 minutes of screen time.
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Out of the 16 films, 11 of them (69 per cent) included gay male characters, four (25 per cent) included lesbian characters and just two (13 per cent) included bisexual characters. In 2021, there was only one transgender character from a major studio film, which was Anybodys (played by Iris Means) in West Side Story.
As we look to the next 10 years, these stories must become a priority if studios want younger and more diverse generations to continue to support and engage with their storytelling.
However, the last trans character that appeared in the annual report was Benedict Cumberbatch’s character All, who was a nonbinary model in 2016’s Zoolander 2, which GLAAD deemed “an offensive caricature.”
In 2020, 50 per cent of major studio films included lesbian characters, but that percentage dropped by half in 2021. Bisexual characters also continue to be significantly underrepresented. While GLAAD notes that bisexual people represent just over 50 per cent of the LGBTQ2S+ community, just two films featured bisexual characters: Our Ladies and The King’s Man.
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Further, for the second year in a row, GLAAD reports that there was no representation of LGBTQ2S+ characters with disabilities or living with HIV. There were also slightly less LGBTQ2S+ characters of color compared to the year before, coming in at just 11 per cent compared to 2017’s record high of 57 per cent.
“As we look to the next 10 years, these stories must become a priority if studios want younger and more diverse generations to continue to support and engage with their storytelling,” GLAAD Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis Megan Townsend explains. Especially since, as she points out, LGBTQ2S+ people living with HIV, LGBTQ2S+ people with disabilities, bisexual people and trans people “have yet to see themselves fully reflected on the big screen.”
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