Less than 20% of films released by major studios last year featured a queer character, according to New York LGBTIQ media advocacy group GLAAD‘s Studio Responsibility Index.
This year, GLAAD analysed 125 films, and found that only 23 featured a queer character.
The Vito Russo test measures how well rounded and necessary to a film an LGBTIQ character is – only nine of the 23 passed. Oooft. Only 20% of the 70 LGBTIQ characters identified this year were people of colour, compared to 32.1% in 2014.
And of the LGBTIQ community, gay men are the most represented, with only one transgender character identified in the study. That portrayal was rightly panned: Benedict Cumberbatch in Zoolander 2, a film everyone who was unfortunate enough to watch it can agree was not good.
For the last five years, GLAAD has tracked LGBTIQ representation in films, awarding ratings of “excellent”, “good”, “insufficient”, “poor” or “failing” to seven film studios. No studio has ever been “excellent”.
The aim is to encourage the major studios to feature more LGBTIQ characters in more meaningful parts, rather than only briefly or as a joke, which doesn’t really seem like that much to ask, really, but according to the ratings below, is too damn hard for every single major film studio.
The highest rating studio this year was Universal, who, while deemed “insufficient”, were commended for films like Bad Neighbours 2, which featured an “unexpectedly well handled subplot” about Zac Efron‘s gay fraternity brother’s engagement. Because there’s no greater compliment that “unexpectedly well handled”.
20th Century Fox, Paramount and Warner Bros were awarded “poor” ratings, ahead of Lionsgate, Sony and Walt Disney who failed.
Talking to Variety, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said:
“Having representation, especially in the films that are widely distributed not only here in the States, they change hearts and minds. They allow people who are LGBTQ to see themselves reflected. That’s why it’s so important.”
And while in 2016, films were behind TV in their representation of queer people, Ellis remains optimistic, mentioning the character of LeFou in this year’s Beauty and the Beast as a step forward. So there’s that little ray of hope.