Hollywood films remained static in their inclusiveness of LGBT characters in 2015, but the racial diversity of those characters fell dramatically, according to the findings of GLAAD’s annual study.
In a survey released Monday by the advocacy group, 17.5 percent of last year’s films from the seven major studios contained characters who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Though unchanged in total percentage from last year, the racial diversity of the LGBT characters has plummeted. Last year, 32.1 percent of the LGBT characters portrayed in the 126 films were people of color. This year, it’s down to 25.5 percent.
The revelation comes at a time of increased scrutiny around the inclusion of people of color in Hollywood films, following a second year of all-white Oscar nominees in the acting categories and a damning USC report about the “whitewashed” industry.
Many times, too, the LGBT characters are used solely as a punchline targets, said GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“Hollywood’s films lag far behind any other form of media when it comes to portrayals of LGBT characters,” Ellis said. “The film industry must embrace new and inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant.”
While television continues to make strides with shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent,” films are also missing the mark in their representation of transgendered characters.
Only one major studio film featured a transgender character – the critically derided Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara buddy comedy “Hot Pursuit.” Even worse, it’s an increase from last year.
For the four years that the study has been done, each of the seven major studios are given a grade of “good” ”adequate” or “failing” for their slates. Lionsgate Entertainment, which had the most films with LGBT characters out of the seven, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Universal Pictures were all deemed adequate. Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios, however, were given a failing grade because none of their 2015 films included LGBT characters.
The report provides LGBT-focused synopses on many of the films counted, and many which were not, giving explanations as to why portrayals were positive or negative, or lambasting films for “gay panic” jokes.
Going forward, an “adequate” grade will no longer be acceptable, according to the report. Next year GLAAD will hold the studios to a higher standard with the use of a five-star scale.
The studios’ art house divisions, like Focus Features and Fox Searchlight, fared better overall. Of the 46 films surveyed, 22 percent were LGBT-inclusive, up from 10.6 percent last year with releases like “The Danish Girl,” ”Grandma” and “Chi-Raq.”
Notable 2015 films like the lesbian romance “Carol” and the transgender sex worker drama “Tangerine” were acknowledge in the report, but not included in overall percentages because they were from specialty and independent distributors and studios.