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GLAAD 10th Annual Studio Responsibility Index Reveals Decrease In LGBTQ-Inclusive Films And Racial Diversity

The organization released its tenth annual Studio Responsibility Index, a study that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ characters in films across studios including The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros.

The World’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, GLAAD, has released its tenth annual Studio Responsibility Index. The study analyzes the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBTQ characters in films released by seven film distributors.

The studios are Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, United Artists Releasing, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. None of the studios received a grade of “good” or “excellent.” Lionsgate and Paramount received a grade of “failing” for not having any LGBTQ characters. Warner Bros. received a grade of “poor.” And the quartet of Sony Pictures, United Arists Releasing, Universal Pictures and The Walt Disney Company received a grade of “insufficient.”

“At a time when the LGBTQ community is under unprecedented attacks, it is more important than ever to hold studios and corporations accountable as businesses remain the most trusted entity in the US,” said GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis in a release. “This new addition to our methodology tracking corporate actions makes it clear that entertainment and media companies need to expand beyond onscreen representation. LGBTQ people deserve to have positive representation reflected in cinemas around the world, and to know that the people and companies who make and market LGBTQ-inclusive films unequivocally stand up for LGBTQ folks.”

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Among the key takeaways from the Studio Responsibility Index:

  • GLAAD reports 77 films released by the seven studios, 16 contained LGBTQ characters
  • 28 LBGTQ characters were counted in 2021 theatric releases. An improvement from the previous year’s report which had eight. There were 19 men and nine women. Last year women outnumbered men but this year that reversed.
  • The racial diversity dropped from 40% to 39%. And though it is a decrease, there was an increase of three characters. 17 of the characters were white, five were Black, two were Latinx, two were Asian/Pacific Islander, one was multiracial and one was Middle Eastern.
  • There was a decrease in lesbian representation.
  • Only seven of the 28 LBGTQ characters counted in 2021 had 10 minutes of screen time. 17 of the 28 had under five minutes and six of the characters had under one minute.
  • Of the 28 characters, zero LBGTQ characters had a disability or were living with HIV.
  • A character from Walt Disney’s West Side Story, Anybodys, was the first transgender character in a major studio theatrical release in five years.

“After a decade of this report, we’ve seen exponential growth in LGBTQ representation in film driven by our study. Yet there still remains so much work to be done in Hollywood,” said Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis. “There are so many parts of our community – bisexual+ people, those living with HIV, LGBTQ characters with disabilities, and transgender people, to name a few – that have yet to see themselves fully reflected on the big screen. As we look to the next ten years, these stories must become a priority if studios want younger and more diverse generations to continue to support and engage with their storytelling. Our GLAAD Media Institute is working as a partner to studios every day to advance these meaningful narratives which change culture.”

Studios are evaluated based on GLAAD’s Vito Russo test, which is named after GLAAD’s co-founder who goes by the same name. As noted by a release, “the Vito Russo Test represents an expectation and minimum standard and provides a roadmap for a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films to reach and ultimately exceed.”

For a film to pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. they are comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight/cisgender characters from one another).
  • The LGBTQ character must be tied to the plot in such a way that the character’s removal would have a significant effect, meaning the character is not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline. The character must matter.
  • The LGBTQ character’s story must not be outwardly offensive (avoids defaulting to well-known tropes or stereotypes with no further development). In films with multiple LGBTQ characters, at least one character must pass this point for the film to pass the test.

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About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a former Staff Writer at Boardroom specializing in sports business and music. He previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester, and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" -- Hampton University — is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.