2020 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index

By GLAAD.org

Photos from the movie ANNA and Elton John’s ROCKETMAN

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 eight major motion picture studios during the 2019 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, STX Films, United Artists Releasing, 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.

For this report, GLAAD focused its analysis on the eight film studios that had the highest theatrical grosses from films released in 2019, as reported by the box office database Box Office Mojo. Those eight are:

This report examines films that were distributed theatrically during the 2019 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. For the first time, in this year’s report GLAAD included STX Films and United Artists Releasing in its quantified tally of major studios. This decision was made due to the breadth of projects slated, wide release business model, box office and critical success of several films released by these studios, which were comparable to the existing major studios. Twentieth Century released two films in 2019 prior to its being acquired by Walt Disney Studios. GLAAD made the decision to include those two films in the Disney slate as studio structure changes were happening dating back to Fall 2018. GLAAD did not include theatrical re-releases and special events such as filmed live events in this count. Films distributed by these studios’ “art house” divisions (such as Searchlight Pictures) were analyzed separately and not part of the parent studio’s final assessment. The total number of films released by major studios met our criteria is 118.

GLAAD separately analyzed the films released under four smaller studio imprints, often 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 best defined by the reporting of Box Office Mojo and other entertainment industry databases. The total number of films that met our criteria is 34. These divisions include:

  • Focus Features
  • Roadside Attractions
  • Searchlight Pictures
  • 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, gender identity, and disability status based on what was presented in the film.
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, language was not quantified for this report. Additionally, each film was assigned to one of five genre categories:

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Family
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi/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 genres, categories were determined based on the predominant genre suggested by both the film and its marketing campaigns.

We recognize that not all audiences will agree with some of the films determined to be LGBTQ-inclusive and vice versa. GLAAD’s methodology is anchored by categorizing characters as LGBTQ based on what is presented on screen as part of the film and/or through wide and commonly held cultural knowledge of a real life figure.

Based on the overall quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ representation in the studio’s slate, a grade was then assigned to each major studio: Excellent, Good, Insufficient, Poor, or Failing. Please note, Prior to the 2017 report, GLAAD assigned studios scores on a four point scale of Excellent, Good, Adequate, or Failing.

Taking inspiration from the Bechdel Test, which examines the way women characters are portrayed and situated within a narrative, GLAAD developed its own set of criteria to analyze how LGBTQ characters are included within a film. The Vito Russo Test takes its name from celebrated film historian and GLAAD co-founder Vito Russo, whose book The Celluloid Closet remains the bedrock for analysis of early LGBTQ portrayals in Hollywood film. These criteria can help filmmakers create more multidimensional characters while providing a barometer for LGBTQ film representation. This test represents an expectation and standard, providing a roadmap for a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films to reach and surpass.

More films need to include substantial LGBTQ characters that pass this simple test. However, as several of the films tracked prove, passing this test does not guarantee that a film is free of problems, offensive in its portrayals or tropes. Some previous examples of films which passed the test but which still contain offensive content include Zoolander 2, Hazlo Como Hombre, and CHiPS – all included LGBTQ characters tied to the film’s plot, but whose stories were objectionable. Passing the Vito Russo Test is a first step, rather than the finish line.

For a film to pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. they are comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight/cisgender characters from one another).
  • The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect, meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character must matter.

To view the entire report click this PDF
https://www.glaad.org/sites/default/files/GLAAD 2020 Studio Responsibility Index.pdf