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LGBTQ representation in Hollywood slightly up in 2019 – but with fewer women, less racial diversity and no transgender characters


Major Hollywood films portrayed more LGBTQ characters than ever in 2019, but diversity took a hit, says a new report from GLAAD out Thursday.

Of the 118 films released from big studios last year, 22 (18.6%) included characters who were either lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer — a slight increase from the previous year (18.2%) — according to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media organization.

It marked the highest-ever inclusion of LGBTQ characters in major Hollywood flicks since the organization started mapping representation of characters with different sexual orientations and gender identities in 2012.

But for the third year in a row, transgender characters were entirely absent from any of the major releases.

Racial diversity was also at its lowest percentage in three years: 34% of LGBTQ characters were people of color in 2019, down from 42% last year, and 57% in 2017.

Lesbian and bisexual characters experienced a significant drop in representation from previous years. While representation of gay men was up (68% of the films in 2019, up from 55% from the previous year), lesbians were represented in 36% of LGBTQ-inclusive films, down from 55% in 2018.

“Despite seeing a record high percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films this year, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of fairly and accurately representing the LGBTQ community,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, said in a statement.

“If film studios want to stay relevant to today’s audiences and compete in an industry that is emphasizing diversity and inclusion, then they must urgently reverse course on the diminishing representation of LGBTQ women and people of color, as well as the complete absence of trans characters.”

According to GLAAD’S 2020 Studio Responsibility Index, based on the quality, quantity, and diversity of LGBTQ characters, no studio received a grade of “good” or higher.

Paramount Pictures — which had the highest percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films (33%) — as well as Lionsgate, United Artists Releasing, and Universal Pictures received “Insufficient” grades; Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios received “Poor” grades; and STX Films — which had no LGBTQ representation — received a “Failing” grade.

Paramount, which was responsible for the Oscar-winning fantasy musical biopic about Elton John, “Rocketman,” was commended by GLAAD for the film’s “bold storytelling with a queer character at its center who is nuanced — and a dedicated team of studio, director, and talent driving the film’s success. [It] is just what we should come to expect from Hollywood in the future.”

The film, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, was censored or banned in some countries for its portrayal of a gay character. A much-talked-about sex scene between Elton John and his former boyfriend and manager John Reid, however, was played by two heterosexual actors, Taron Egerton and Richard Madden.

Overall, representation also came in lower doses in 2019.

Only nine films included an LGBTQ character with more that 10 minutes of screen time; and 21 out of 50 characters appeared for less than one minute. Some were so minor that they didn’t even get names.

“Studios should recognize the power of LGBTQ audiences and the desire for stories that reflect our lives, by delivering and unambiguously marketing films and franchises that include nuanced and authentic LGBTQ characters,” Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis, said.

While LGBTQ representation on television has significantly increased in recent years, the story is different for mainstream studio films.

“Every year, this study continues to find a pattern of inconsistency in the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ stories year over year as well as across single studio’s slates,” said Ellis.

“Film has the power to educate, enlighten, and entertain audiences around the world and, in today’s divisive political and cultural climate, we must prioritize telling LGBTQ stories and the stories of all marginalized people,” she added.