2019 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index

By GLAAD.org

The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) characters in films released by the seven major motion picture studios during the 2018 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros., 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.

Hollywood moves the needle after GLAAD challenge, but opportunities remain.

GLAAD has been tracking lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) inclusion in major studio films since 2012. We know that representation matters, and that mainstream films are one of America’s most far-reaching cultural exports. These movies are marketed and accessible to nearly every person in the U.S. and to billions more around the world. But still, LGBTQ characters and stories in film are lagging behind other forms of entertainment.

The Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) has shown a pattern of inconsistency from year-to-year in the number and quality of LGBTQ stories – and even sometimes within a single year across a studio’s slate. We continue to see that trend in this year’s report as 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios included LGBTQ characters in 40 and 30 percent respectively of each studio’s 2018 releases, while Disney did not release any inclusive films in 2018.There was additionally a wide variance in the quality of stories told across all seven studios.

This is why when GLAAD released its 2018 SRI, we called on the seven major film studios to ensure 20 percent of annual major studio releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50 percent include LGBTQ characters by 2024. This threshold marks a first step in creating a barometer that will help move the needle on LGBTQ representation in film and guide the studios to improved grades.

Photo from Boheiman Rhapsody Movie
The long-awaited biopic of bisexual Queen front man Freddie Mercury was released last year after several years of production issues and cast and crew changes.

In 2018, 18.2 percent of films from the seven major studios contained LGBTQ characters, a huge leap from 2017’s all-time low of 12.8 percent. Four of the seven studios hit this 20 percent goal individually this year – 20th Century Fox at 40% (four of 10), Universal Pictures with 30% (six of 20), then Warner Bros. at 22% (five of 23), and Paramount rounding out at exactly 20% (two of 10).

For the first time since GLAAD began this report, two studios have received a “Good” rating in a single year. While the past year a substantial uptick in numbers from major studios, the figures are only part of the story.

Outstanding stories with nuanced LGBTQ characters at the center like GLAAD Media Award nominees Love, Simon, The Girl in the Spider’s Web and Blockers should serve as examples for studios. These protagonists have agency and development of their own stories; none of them serves as a punchline or a prop for another character’s growth. But it also matters who is being included in stories – Hollywood needs to better reflect the full diversity of the LGBTQ community

Though mainstream releases including Crazy Rich Asians, Deadpool 2, Annihilation, and Truth or Dare all featured the stories of queer people of color, the overall racial diversity of LGBTQ characters dropped year-over-year. One way that film continues to lag far behind other entertainment media is the complete lack of transgender characters in any major release last year. This is a particularly glaring omission when compared to television which in 2018 introduced TV’s first transgender superhero on Supergirl and the largest cast of series regular actors who are trans on Pose.

The uncertain media landscape – particularly in the shifting layout of the major studios following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox – creates a real concern. This consolidation may mean a more difficult path to distribution for films that are not major blockbuster or tentpole releases. Studios may be more hesitant to invest in new types of content, and decisions on what gets green-lit and who is involved are made by a smaller group of people. This is a quickly moving space that GLAAD is closely monitoring and actively working in every day.

The good news is that the studios have plenty of opportunities to release outstanding LGBTQ-inclusive movies with what has already been announced in their upcoming slates. Films have a long lifecycle, so the choices made in the next two to three years are critical as they will have long running effects on the findings of this report and the grades of each studio. GLAAD is a resource at every step of the process in making sure that these projects make it through to the big screen. Our GLAAD Media Institute is driving a culture revolution through education, consultation, and actionable research to help creators and industry leaders be better prepared to produce and market compelling, entertaining LGBTQ characters that do not reinforce harmful and outdated stereotypes.

Futhermore, GLAAD is working to uplift LGBTQ-inclusive projects. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival in partnership with The Black List, GLAAD released our inaugural GLAAD List highlighting 10 promising LGBTQ-inclusive films that we would like to see be made in coming years. We know the unique power of entertainment to change hearts and minds and the impact that nuanced LGBTQ characters can have on audiences.

That is why GLAAD was founded, and why we continue the work today to hold Hollywood accountable for the images they are portraying.

Sarah Kate Ellis
President & CEO, GLAAD For this report, GLAAD focused its analysis on the seven film studios that had the highest theatrical grosses from films released in 2018, as reported by the box office database Box Office Mojo.
Those seven are::

This report examines films that were distributed theatrically during the 2018 calendar year (January 1 to December 31) in the United States under the official studio banners and imprints as reported by Box Office Mojo, the studios, and other entertainment reporting sources. GLAAD did not include theatrical re-releases and special events such as filmed live events in this count. 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 110.

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 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:

  • Focus Features
  • Fox Searchlight
  • Roadside Attractions
  • Sony Pictures Classics

Each film was researched and reviewed for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and 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:

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Family
  • Fantasy/science fiction/action
  • Documentary

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.

We recognize that some of the films counted here as LGBTQ-inclusive will not necessarily be seen as such by everyone and vice versa. GLAAD’s methodology focuses on counting 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 real life figure.
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. Note: Prior to the 2017 report, GLAAD assigned studios scores on a four point scale of Excellent, Good, Adequate, or Failing.

Download the full publication in PDF format.