GLAAD Report Says Many LGBT Characters in Studio Films Were Defamatory Portrayals

'Identity Thief' (2013)

After watching Melissa McCarthy's performance in Bridesmaids, Jason Bateman pushed for her to co-star with him in Identity Thief, an American crime comedy film that sees a man named Sandy (Bateman) seeking to bring an impostor (McCarthy) to justice after he realizes that she's stolen his identity. 

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The organization issued failing grades to two studios for only including minor, offensive portrayals of LGBT people in last year's releases.

The major movie studios are largely failing to show substantial LGBT characters, GLAAD’s annual Studio Responsibility Index reveals. The report found that only 17 of 102 major studio releases in 2013 included characters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the majority of which were minor roles, and many were defamatory representations.

This is the second year GLAAD is releasing its studio index, which maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the calendar year.

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“The lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream film, in addition to the outdated humor and stereotypes, suggests large Hollywood studios may be doing more harm than good when it comes to worldwide understanding of the LGBT community,” GLAAD CEO and president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members and should reflect the true fabric of our society rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe.”

With respect to specific studios, GLAAD issued failing grades to Paramount and Warner Bros. for only including minor and offensive portrayals of LGBT people. Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Walt Disney Studios received “adequate” grades, while Sony Pictures was the first and only studio to receive a “good” score for several LGBT-inclusive films, including Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. No studio has received a grade of “excellent.” GLAAD also singled out Pain and Gain and Riddick for having offensive portrayals of LGBT characters.

While the number of studio releases with LGBT characters is up from last year’s showing of 14, last year’s Studio Responsibility Index didn’t include Lionsgate, which released three inclusive films in 2013.

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GLAAD also found that LGBT characters were most often found in comedies, yet the organization noted that studios seem to devote most of their resources to genre films like comic-book adaptations and action franchises, where LGBT characters were rarely represented. Only four genre films of the 43 released last year contained LGBT characters. Furthermore, GLAAD found there were no LGBT characters in any animated or family-oriented films or documentaries released by the seven studios tracked.

More than half of the 17 inclusive films released in 2013 included gay male characters, with another 23.5 percent featuring lesbian characters. Male LGBT characters outnumbered female ones by 64 to 36 percent.

GLAAD also found that less than half of the studios’ 17 LGBT-friendly films managed to pass the "Vito Russo Test" it devised, which represents a standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach.

GLAAD’s report urges studios to feature more substantial LGBT roles, make genre films more diverse and try to better represent transgender people.

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“There were no transgender characters in the 2012 releases GLAAD tracked, but the two found in the 2013 releases were hardly an improvement,” GLAAD said in its press release announcing this year’s report. “One was a transwoman very briefly depicted in a jail cell, while the other was an outright defamatory depiction included purely to give the audience something to laugh at. Media representation of transgender people has long remained decades behind that of gay and lesbian people, and images like these continue to marginalize the community. However, recent media attention around trans issues and people like actress Laverne Cox demonstrates that times are quickly changing, and Hollywood should as well.”

The release added: “Anti-gay slurs are less common in film now than they were 20 years ago, but they are by no means extinct, and some are still used by characters the audience is meant to be rooting for. Perhaps even more prevalent are anti-transgender slurs, which in 2013 were used by main characters in films like Anchorman 2 and Identity Thief for no reason other than to make a joke. With few exceptions, these words should be left on the cutting room floor.”

The full report can be viewed here.