The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in films released by the seven major motion picture studios during the 2017 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, as well as films released by four subsidiaries of these major studios. The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBTQ representation in film.
For this report, GLAAD focused its analysis on the seven film studios that had the highest theatrical grosses from films released in 2017, as reported by the box office database Box Office Mojo. Those seven are:
20th Century Fox
The Walt Disney Studios
This report examines films that were distributed theatrically during the 2017 calendar year (January 1 to December 31) under the official studio banners and imprints. Films distributed by these studio’s “art house” divisions (such as Fox Searchlight) were analyzed separately and not part of the parent studio’s final tally or grade. The total number of films released by major studios that fell within the research parameters is 109.
GLAAD separately analyzed the films released under four smaller studio imprints that are sometimes referred to as “art house” divisions. This was done to compare the quantity and quality of LGBTQ representations in these studios’ releases directly to parent companies. These specialty films are typically distributed and marketed to a much smaller audience than their major studio counterparts. These distinctions were informed in part by the box office reporting of Box Office Mojo and other entertainment industry databases. The total number of films that fell within the research parameters is 40. These divisions include:
Sony Pictures Classics
Each film was researched and reviewed for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) characters. The total number of LGBTQ characters was recorded for each film, as well as each character’s race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The films were also reviewed for the presence of general LGBTQ content and anti-LGBTQ language or “humor,” though because such content must be considered in context, the language was not quantified for this report.
Additionally, each film was assigned to one of five genre categories:
The family category included animated and children’s films rated PG and under. The category of fantasy/science fiction/action also included horror films and action films not rooted in reality rated PG-13 and above. In the case of films that straddled genre lines, categories were assigned based on the predominant genre suggested by both the film and its marketing campaigns.
Based on the overall quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ representation, a grade was then assigned to each studio: Excellent, Good, Insufficient, Poor, or Failing.
We must also recognize that some of the films counted here as LGBTQ-inclusive will not necessarily be seen as such by everyone and vice versa. Every year GLAAD finds characters that must be subjectively interpreted to be understood as LGBTQ, require external confirmation of the filmmakers’ intentions, or rely on pre-existing knowledge of source material or a public figure on whom a character is based.
While in past GLAAD has often counted these characters, our methodology is now shifting to only count characters as LGBTQ based on what is presented on screen as part of the film or through wide and commonly held cultural knowledge of a figure.
Note: Prior to the 2017 report, GLAAD assigned studios scores on a four point scale of Excellent, Good, Adequate, or Failing.
Of the 109 film releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2017, 14 (12.8 percent) contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. This is a significant decrease of 5.6 percentage points and down nine films from the previous year’s 18.4 percent (23 of 125 films). While part of this drop may be due to increased rigorous methodology it was also an overall bleak year for inclusion in major studio film.
Gay men remain the most represented in film by far with 64 percent (nine) of the inclusive films featuring gay male characters. This is a drop of 19 percentage points from the previous report (83 percent of inclusive films). Lesbian representation remained steady, up one point to 36 percent (five) of inclusive films including lesbian characters. There was a small increase in bisexual representation: 14 percent (two) of major studios’ LGBTQ-inclusive films counted bi characters as compared to 13 percent in the previous year’s report. There were zero transgender-inclusive films from the major studios in 2017.
GLAAD tallied 28 total LGBTQ characters among all mainstream releases in 2017, down from 70 in 2016 and 47 in 2015. It is important to note that 14 of the characters counted in 2016 were part of a single musical number in Universal Pictures’ PopStar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which misleadingly inflated the numbers that year. Men again outnumber women characters by more than two to one, there were 20 men and eight women, compared to 47 men and 22 women in 2016’s major studio releases. There were no transgender or non-binary characters counted in mainstream releases this year.
The racial diversity of LGBTQ characters actually saw a welcome increase in films tracked in 2016 after two straight years of dramatic drops. In 2017, 57 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color, compared to 20 percent in films released in 2016 and 25.5 percent in 2015. Of the 28 LGBTQ characters counted, 12 were white (43 percent), eight were Black/African American (28.5 percent), and eight were Latinx (28.5 percent). There were zero Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ characters or any other race/ethnicity.
For the first time since GLAAD began this report, comedy is no longer the genre with the most LGBTQ-inclusive films from major studios. Of the 109 films tracked, GLAAD identified 47 films as genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy/horror), of which six (13 percent) were inclusive. Following in order, GLAAD counted 20 films as comedies with five (25 percent) being inclusive, two of 24 dramas (eight percent), and one of 16 animated/family films (six percent) included LGBTQ characters. There were no LGBTQ-inclusive documentaries from the major studios in 2017.
Universal Pictures was by far the most LGBTQ-inclusive of all the major studios tracked in this year’s report, literally doubling the number of inclusive films of most other studios. Four of Universal’s 14 total films (29 percent) were LGBTQ-inclusive in 2017. In a four-way tie for second: two of Paramount’s 11 films (18 percent), two of Fox’s 14 films (14 percent), two of Lionsgate’s 19 films (11 percent), and two of Warner Brothers’ 18 films (11 percent) included LGBTQ characters. One of Disney’s eight films (13 percent) included a gay character, and Sony rounds out the group with one inclusive film of 25 total (four percent).
GLAAD also examined the film releases of four smaller, affiliated studios (Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics) to draw a comparison between content released by the mainstream studios and perceived “art house” divisions. Of the 40 films released under those studio imprints in 2017, we found 11 to be LGBTQ-inclusive (28 percent). This is up from 17 percent (seven of 41) of films from the same divisions found to be inclusive in 2016. In 2015, GLAAD found 22 percent (10 of 46) of films from these indie distributors to be inclusive, which was a welcome increase from the first year of counting these studios when we counted only 10.6 percent (five of 47).
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