GLAAD's sixth annual Studio Responsibility Index sees alarming drop in LGBTQ characters in major studio films

This morning, GLAAD released its sixth annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios and their subsidiaries during the 2017 calendar year.


GLAAD found that of the 109 releases from major studios in 2017, only 14 (12.8%) of them included characters that are LGBTQ. This represents a significant decrease from the previous year’s report (18.4%, 23 out of 125), and the lowest percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive major studio releases since GLAAD began tracking in 2012. Not one of the 109 releases included a transgender character, a drop from the one transgender character portrayed in 2016, who only served as a punchline.

While the number of LGBTQ characters dropped substantially year over year, there was a welcome increase in racial diversity of LGBTQ characters. In 2017, the majority of LGBTQ characters were people of color (57%, 16 of 28). However, there were no Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ characters in major studio releases in 2017.

In this year’s Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called on the seven major film studios to make sure that 20% of annual major studio releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50% of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024. The GLAAD Media Institute will unveil a roadmap for Hollywood to grow LGBTQ inclusion in film during an event hosted by global entertainment agency WME and Endeavor Content later today. The event will feature remarks from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis as well as a panel discussion on LGBTQ images in film. Panelists include Emmy-winning writer, producer, and actor Lena Waithe (“Master of None,” “The Chi,” “Ready Player One”), director and writer Kay Cannon (“Blockers,” “Pitch Perfect”), and actor Nico Santos (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Superstore”) who will address LGBTQ creators and industry executives.

“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.”

20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures both received an ‘Insufficient’ rating; Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and Walt Disney received ‘Poor’ ratings; and Lionsgate Entertainment and Warner Brothers received ‘Failing’ ratings.

GLAAD shared recommendations for the film industry to reach the benchmark of 20% of annual major studio releases including LGBTQ characters by 2021:

  • Studios must do better to include more LGBTQ characters, and construct those stories in a way that is directly tied to the film’s plot. LGBTQ characters in mainstream films are still minor – in both screen time and substance. This has been a consistent problem every year since GLAAD began tracking LGBTQ characters in Hollywood releases six years ago. Of the 14 inclusive films distributed by major studios in 2017, seven (50%) included less than five minutes of screen time for their LGBTQ characters, with the majority of those falling under three minutes.
  • Far too often LGBTQ characters and stories are relegated to subtext, and it is left up to the audience to interpret or read into a character as being LGBTQ. Audiences may not realize they are seeing an LGBTQ character unless they have outside knowledge of a real figure, have consumed source material for an adaptation, or have read external press confirmations. This is not enough. GLAAD updated its report methodology this year to explain our focus in on-screen representation. Our stories deserve to be seen on screen just as much as everyone else’s, not hidden away or left to guess work, but boldly and fully shown.
  • Comic book films must reflect the diversity 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.

“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.

GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index reviews films based on GLAAD’s "Vito Russo Test", a set of criteria analyzing how LGBTQ characters are situated in a narrative. Named after GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian Vito Russo, and partly inspired by the “Bechdel Test," these criteria represent a minimum standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach in the future.

The Vito Russo Test criteria:

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ).
  2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight/non-transgender characters from one another).
  3. The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

Of the 14 LGBTQ-inclusive major studio releases in 2017, only 9 (64%) passed the Vito Russo Test, the same number of passing films as the previous year.

With this annual report, GLAAD will continue to track the industry’s progress. To view and download the full report, click here.