GLAAD report finds both low and low quality LGBT representation in studio films

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Image Credit: Rafy

In its second annual study of LGBT representation in studio films, GLAAD found that major studios have continued to underrepresent and misrepresent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters. The advocacy organization found that, of the 102 releases from 7 major studios, only 17 included characters that identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual—adding that a majority of these characters were minor roles or cameos, and that many representations were “outright defamatory.”

GLAAD took seven major studios to task in its Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), giving both Paramount and Warner Brothers “failing” grades for including only minor and offensive portrayals of LGBT people in their 2013 releases. 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios were rated as “adequate,” while Sony Columbia was the first and only studio to receive a “good” score.

Some other takeaways:

—Gay men are disproportionately represented: 64.7 percent of inclusive films included gay male characters. 23.5 percent included lesbian characters, and 17.7 percent contained bisexual characters. Male LGBT characters outnumbered female characters 64 percent to 36 percent.

—White characters are  disproportionately represented: 76 percent of the characters counted were white, 12 percent were Black/African American, 8 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent were Latino.

—Transgender characters received the least (and most offensive) representation: GLAAD only counted two transgender characters in 2013 studio releases. One was a transwoman briefly depicted in a jail cell in Grudge Match; the other was a “defamatory depiction” in the Lionsgate comedy Instructions Not Included.

—When LGBT characters appear, they tend to be defined by their sexual orientation. GLAAD uses a “Vito Russo Test,” an LGBT version of the feminist Bechdel Test, which requires a film to include a character that fulfills certain criteria (including not being defined by their sexuality). Only 7 of the 17 films managed to pass.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones got the biggest praise, while Pain & Gain and The Hangover: Part III received the most scorn. Mortal Instruments, which includes a gay and a bisexual character, was the only studio film tracked that was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Pain & Gain was condemned for including a gay character (a priest who’s beaten up by a troubled character) “whose sole purpose is to act like a lecherous pervert for a few seconds,” while the third Hangover film was criticized for continuing to use the character Chow’s (Ken Jeong) attraction to men for punchlines. “With LGBT characters so incredibly rare in films of the Hangover series’ reach and popularity, it’s disheartening that this offensively constructed character also stands out as one of the most significant among the 2013 releases,” GLAAD wrote in the study.

GLAAD plans to release its 8th annual Network Responsibility Index (NRI), a survey of representation on television, in the coming weeks.

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