Despite high-profile Oscar wins for art house films like Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Women, LGBTQ representation in films from the seven biggest Hollywood studios fell significantly in 2017 according to a study released by the advocacy organization GLAAD.
GLAAD said in its sixth annual report that of the 109 major releases surveyed from 2017, 12.8 percent included LGBTQ characters, down from 18.4 percent the previous year.
None of the major films had a transgender character either, although there was an increase in the racial diversity of LGBTQ characters after two years of decline.
Individually none of the studios received higher than the “insufficient” rating given to 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures. Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Studios all received “poor” ratings, and both Lionsgate and Warner Bros. got “failing” grades.
As usual, independent and art house releases included more LGBTQ characters. Of the 40 films released by Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions and Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed both Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Woman, 28 percent were LGBTQ-inclusive, up from 17 percent in 2016.
The report says that Hollywood is at a tipping point with both the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements and the huge box office successes of films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman.
“Inclusion is good for the bottom line,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. “It is time for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) stories to be included in this conversation and in this movement.”
According to GLAAD, 20 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 identify as LGBTQ.
The organization is calling on the industry to commit to hitting a target of 20 percent of major releases including LGBTQ characters by 2021, and 50 percent by 2024. It is also making a plea to studios to integrate LGBTQ characters more directly into the plot and not to leave a character’s queer identity to subtext or interpretation as was the case with Power Rangers.
GLAAD notes that 2018 is off to a more promising start with releases like Fox’s Love, Simon, Paramount’s Annihilation and Universal’s Blockers, all of which played on thousands of screens in North America and “included central queer characters who have agency over their own stories.”
“Films like Love, Simon have helped accelerate acceptance around the world with many outlets covering the stories of LGBTQ young people who were inspired and empowered to come out after seeing the movie,” Ellis wrote. “This is the unique power of entertainment — to change hearts and minds by sharing our stories, and helping people find understanding and common experiences with people who may not be exactly like them.”