In a report covered by The Hollywood Reporter, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called for the major studios to include LGBTQ characters in 20 percent of their releases by 2021 and in 50 percent of their films by 2024.
In a new survey of the 109 films released theatrically by the major studios last year, the advocacy group GLAAD reports that gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer characters appeared in only 14 films—just 12.8 percent of the total releases, a dramatic drop from the 18.4 percent of the studio features that were judged to be inclusive in 2016. In fact, it’s the lowest percentage of films containing LGBTQ characters since GLAAD began issuing its annual report in 2012.
And a lot of the gay appearances in 2017 films were fleeting. Of the 14 films that included LGBTQ characters, in half those characters had less than five minutes of screen time, the study found.
The report also pointed out that gay men were the most represented on film, making up 64 percent of the inclusive films presenting gay characters in 2017. And while lesbian representation has remained steady and bisexuals increased slightly, there were no trans characters, of any race or ethnicity, in the films studied.
WME and Endeavor in response held their first-ever forum on LGBTQ inclusion in film. “We’d like to commit to GLAAD’s 20% inclusion by 2021,” Iwashina announced to the red-coated theater, which was packed with agents, media and industry professionals, some of whom were crowded against walls or sitting on the floor. “Oh, my gosh, thank you!” responded GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who seemed pleasantly shocked by Iwashina’s offering. The senior agent added: “I know that all of our WME allies will help you participate in this cause as well.”
GLAAD is claiming that 20 percent of Americans 18 to 34 years old and 12 percent of those 35–51 identify as LGBTQ, Ellis noted, “If Hollywood wants to remain relevant with these audiences and keep them buying tickets, they must create stories are reflective of the world LGBTQ people and our friends and family know.”
The push to add more LGBT characters in film is a divisive one with fans of the entertainment world. Last week, there was a swift backlash against Solo: A Star Wars Story after the writer of the film claimed that longstanding Star Wars fan favorite Lando Calrissian was pansexual, A claim that actor Donald Glover supported earlier in the week. This along with other issues regarding the issues of ‘representation’ in the Star Wars universe as caused fan interest in the new film to be at an all-time low for the Disney franchise on Rotten Tomatoes as well as reports of the film being the lowest Opening of Disney ‘Star Wars’ Movies.
The issue of forcing ‘representation’ in films is going to be a hot issue for the next few years. Sacrificing quality for the sake of inclusion is a plan not many audiences are going to get behind for a domestic film market that is already quickly dropping. And if Hollywood and GLADD want more LBGT characters in film, they may want to run that by Suadi Arabia first, the country that Hollywood is looking for a billion boost from to offset the Chinese drop-off. Hollywood needs to understand that the focus should be making the character iconic not making them ‘inclusive’. Lando Calrissian is iconic because of his character, not his sexuality.