In releasing its sixth annual Studio Responsibility Index, media monitoring organization GLAAD has called on major movie studios to ensure that at least 20% of movies include characters that are LGBTQ by 2021, a blog post on the organization’s website reports.
That target would see an increase from 12.8%, or 14 of the 109 releases from major studios in 2017 which featured LGBTQ characters, a decrease from the previous year and the lowest since GLAAD began tracking the statistic in 2012. The report also notes that there were no transgender characters featured at all, a 100% decrease from the previous year, which featured one that GLAAD says “only served as a punchline.”
In addition to the broader call for more inclusive movies, GLAAD specifically called out Marvel and DC superhero films.
“With wildly successful films like Wonder Woman and Black Panther proving that audiences want to see diverse stories that haven’t been told before, there is simply no reason for major studios to have such low scores on the Studio Responsibility Index,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “At a time when the entertainment industry is holding much needed discussions about inclusion, now is the time to ensure the industry takes meaningful action and incorporates LGBTQ stories and creators as among priorities areas for growing diversity.”
Marvel parent Disney received a “poor” rating from GLAAD for inclusiveness, while DC parent Warner Bros. received a “failing” rating. Additionally, the report called for comic book movies to at least be as representative of their source material:
There are so many LGBTQ heroes in comics – enough for GLAAD to up its Outstanding Comic Book award category from five to ten nominees to reflect the quality and quantity of what we are seeing – that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore that LGBTQ people remain almost completely shut out of Hollywood’s big budget comic films. There have been several films in recent years that have erased a character’s queer identity as they moved from page to screen. In 2017, Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and DC’s Wonder Woman both included characters who are queer in the source material, but did not include any on screen confirmation of their identities. This must change going forward.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn once famously claimed that “there are probably, you know, gay characters in the Marvel universe and we just don’t know who they are yet,” echoing a strategy adopted by many major media companies of claiming that LGBTQ characters exist in popular entertainment properties, but all the LGBTQ stuff happens off screen. One possible reason often cited for studios’ hesitancy to portray LGBTQ characters in Blockbuster films is the need for those films to make money in international markets, some of which might have laws or strong cultural prejudice against LGBTQ people. Of course, others might argue that the refusal to openly portray LGBTQ characters on screen denotes a strong cultural prejudice in the movie industry itself.
LGBTQ characters aren’t the only area in which Marvel has suffered from a lack of diversity. When Captain Marvel is finally released in 2019, it will have been 11 years since the launch of the Marvel Universe, with 20 films released starring male leads or predominantly male ensemble casts. Captain Marvel will be the first Marvel film to star a female solo lead and the first to be co-directed by a woman. The preceding film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, will be the first to feature a female co-lead in the title.
The GLAAD report did, however, praise at least one comic book film: the recently released Deadpool 2.
“Though wide release films this year like Love, Simon, Annihilation, Blockers, and Negasonic and Yukio’s relationship in Deadpool 2, have raised the bar for LGBTQ images, studios must still do more to ensure that LGBTQ storylines and characters are included in fair and accurate ways. We hope that these films are the start of an upward trend of sustained progress, and not just a blip in the radar of next year’s SRI,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD.
Read GLAAD’s post here.