The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in films released by seven major motion picture studios during the 2015 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, as well as films released by four major subsidiary studios. The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBT film representations.
From the desk of Sarah Kate Ellis
Four years ago, GLAAD launched the Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) to map the quantity and quality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in films released by the major motion picture studios. Today, we still struggle to find any marked improvement in the representation of LGBT lives on the silver screen. An unfortunate pattern for several years, there remains very little consistency in representation of LGBT people in film. This lack of consistency is not only seen across each studio’s yearly slates (releasing both stand-out inclusive films and problematic representations), but also throughout each studios’ year-to-year performance, as we continue to see studios dropping from a rating of “Good” to “Adequate” or “Failing.” What’s more, Hollywood films lag far behind other media when it comes to portraying LGBT characters, cementing the industry’s reputation as outdated compared to the groundbreaking inclusion seen on streaming series like Sense8, Orange Is the New Black, and Transparent. Given the steady and remarkable changes in the television landscape, both in the quantity and quality of LGBT characters, it is clear that what we once considered “Adequate” from the film industry is no longer adequate at all. Therefore, beginning with GLAAD’s fifth SRI in 2017, we will be holding these studios to a higher standard that more fully accounts for the groundbreaking inclusion we see continuing to flourish across other entertainment media. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of LGBT characters that do make it to the big screen continue to lack substance and purpose. Too often, LGBT people are included as the setup of a punchline or exist as an isolated token character who never gets the chance to bloom into a fully formed personality. This lack of care can be seen across the swath of LGBT characters found in mainstream films in 2015, and also manifests in a historically low percentage of films that passed GLAAD’s Vito Russo Test this year. The film industry must embrace new stories reflective of the actual world if it wants to remain competitive and relevant. Lucky for them, there are plenty more stories to be told. It is not enough for LGBT characters to simply be present; rather, these characters must be crafted thoughtfully and better reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community. Leaving LGBT people out of the picture – or including them only as a punchline – keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions. Hollywood must do better to improve the messages they are sending. In future versions of this report, major studios’ slates will be rated on a five-star scale, from one star (“Failing”) to five stars (“Excellent”). This expanded grading system will allow GLAAD to more accurately report on the state of LGBT representation in mainstream Hollywood films. With this and future iterations of the SRI, GLAAD will continue to hold Hollywood accountable for the stories they are – and more notably, are not – sharing with audiences across the world.
Sarah Kate Ellis
GLAAD President & CEO
For this report, GLAAD focused its analysis on the seven film studios that had the highest theatrical grosses from films released in 2015, as reported by the box office database, Box Office Mojo. Those seven studios are:
- 20th Century Fox
- Lionsgate Entertainment
- Paramount Pictures
- Sony Columbia Pictures
- Universal Pictures
- The Walt Disney Studios
- Warner Brothers
This report examines films that were released theatrically during the 2015 calendar year (January 1 to December 31) under the official studio banners and imprints. Films released by studio “art house” divisions (such as Fox Searchlight) were analyzed separately and not part of the parent studio’s final tally, as 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 126.
GLAAD also analyzed the films released under four smaller studio imprints that are sometimes referred to as “art house” divisions. The total number of films that fell within the research parameters is 46. This was done to compare the quantity and quality of LGBT representations in these studios’ releases directly to parent companies. These divisions include:
- Focus Features
- Fox Searchlight
- Roadside Attractions
- Sony Pictures Classics
Each film was researched and reviewed for inclusion of LGBT characters. The total number of LGBT characters was recorded for each film, as well as each character’s race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity.
The films were also reviewed for the presence of general LGBT content and anti- LGBT 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:
- Fantasy/science fiction
The family category included animated and children’s films rated PG and under. The category of fantasy/science fiction also included horror films and action films not rooted in reality rated PG-13 and above. In the case of films that clearly straddled genre lines, categories were assigned based on the predominant genre suggested by both the film and its marketing campaigns.
We must also recognize that some of the films counted here as LGBT-inclusive will not necessarily be seen as such by everyone. Every year GLAAD finds numerous characters that must be subjectively interpreted to be seen as LGBT, 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.
- Of the 126 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2015, 22 (17.5%) contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This is no change from the 17.5% (20 of 114) of films from the same studios we found to be inclusive in 2014.
- Again, the overwhelming majority of inclusive films (77%) featured gay male characters, an increase of 12 percentage points from the previous report. Less than a quarter of inclusive films (23%) featured lesbian characters and less than one-tenth (9%) included bisexual characters. This is a near reversal from last year’s report, which found 30% of inclusive films featured bisexual characters and only 10% included lesbians. GLAAD counted one trans-inclusive film among all releases by major studios in 2015 (Warner Brothers’ Hot Pursuit).
- GLAAD counted 47 LGBT characters among all mainstream releases in 2015, up from 28 last year. Male characters outnumbered females by a ratio of more than three to one (36 to 11).
- The racial diversity of LGBT characters drastically decreased in films tracked in 2015 after an improvement the year before. In 2015, 25.5% were people of color, compared to 32.1% last year. Of the 47 LGBT characters counted, 34 were white (72.3%), 5 were Latino/a (10.6%), 4 were Black/African American (8.5%), and 3 were Asian/Pacific Islander (6.4%). One character was non-human (Fabian in Lionsgate’s Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos).
- As has been the case each year since GLAAD began this report, comedies were the most likely major studio films to be LGBT-inclusive. GLAAD identified 27 different studio films as comedies of the 126 tracked, of which 14 (51.9%) were inclusive. By comparison, GLAAD counted 47 films as genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy/horror), of which only 3 (6.4%) films were inclusive. Additionally, 3 of 35 dramas (8.6%), 1 of 15 animated/ family films (6.7%), and one of two documentaries (50%) included LGBT characters.
- The most inclusive major studio tracked this year was Lionsgate, as 8 of 24 films it released in 2015 (33%) were LGBT-inclusive. Warner Brothers followed with 5 of 25 films (20%), then Universal with 4 of 21 films (19%), and Sony with 3 of 16 films (19%). Two of Fox’s 17 films were inclusive (12%). Neither Disney nor Paramount included any LGBT content in their 2015 slates of 11 and 12 films, respectively.
- Last year, GLAAD began examining 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 46 films released under those studio imprints, we found 10 to be LGBT-inclusive (22%), a notably higher percentage than the parent studio counterparts. This is up from the 10.6% (5 of 47) of films from the same divisions that we found to be inclusive in 2014.
Click here to see the entire report http://www.glaad.org/files/2016_SRI.pdf