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GLAAD on LGBTQ representation in film: ‘It is not getting better’

GLAAD on LGBTQ representation in film: ‘It is not getting better’

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The latest GLAAD report shows Hollywood barely trying

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Hail, Caesar!

GLAAD released its annual report on LGBTQ representation in film today, and the numbers are bleak. They’ve barely increased since 2015, and when broken out into more specific demographics, they often got worse.

Overall, representation of lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer characters was slightly higher in 2016 than 2015. GLAAD reports that 18.4 percent of the industry’s top 125 films included a LGBTQ character. However, gay men still make up a whopping 83 percent of these characters, and of the 70 LGBTQ characters that GLAAD identified (up from 47 the year before), 14 of them were back-up dancers in one musical number in The Lonely Island’s summer comedy Popstar.

Racial diversity in films with LGBTQ representation decreased in 2016, with characters played by people of color down to 20 percent from 25.5 percent in 2015 and 32.1 percent in 2014.

Disney performed the worst of all the major studios

The report also tracks representation by individual major film studios, awarding only Paramount and Universal Pictures ratings of “poor” rather than “failing.” Paramount released 15 films last year, five of which featured LGBTQ characters — but GLAAD also points out that Zoolander 2 (the subject of an online boycott) was riddled with terrible, stereotypical parts for these characters, often setting up LGBTQ people as a punchline. Universal released 17 movies, and featured an LGBTQ character in five. GLAAD compliments storylines in Popstar, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and Neighbors 2, but dings the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar! for using “offensive” and “overdone” stereotypes of closeted but semi-predatory gay characters. Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Sony, and Disney all featured LGBTQ characters in 21 percent of their films or less. Disney was the worst performer, with only 8 percent of its 2016 releases including any LGBTQ representation.

“The bars are not being moved,” GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis told Variety, “It is not getting better.”

Of course, it’s important to remember that the numbers, bad enough on the surface, are also just a starting point when discussing representation — thinly written LGBTQ characters don’t represent anybody. Just as important as who’s on the screen, it’s vital to pay attention to who gets the opportunity to write and create the characters. (And despite what Aaron Sorkin might have you believe, that’s pretty easy. Use Google.) Last year’s Best Picture winner, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, is an extremely intimate and empathetic portrait of gay black identity, in part because it was written and directed by someone who possessed that experience. It was the center of critical and popular attention for many months, and on top of providing much-clamored-for representation, it did some of the work of setting the bar for these stories going forward.

By contrast, GLAAD’s findings regarding representation on television in 2016 were significantly more optimistic. The organization’s November report showed that LGBTQ characters made up about 4 percent of all TV characters, a number slightly higher than the estimated LGBTQ population in the US. The number of lesbian characters had dipped, but transgender characters doubled year over year, while the number of bisexual characters had increased by 10 percentage points. As usual, the film industry is two or 40 steps behind.