GLAAD's Studio Responsibility Index sees Hollywood addressing call for inclusion, opportunity remains

Today, GLAAD released the seventh annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) characters in films released by the seven major motion picture studios during the 2018 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros., as well as films released by four subsidiaries of these major studios. The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBTQ representation in film.


GLAAD found that of the 110 releases from major studios in 2018, 20 (18.2%) included characters that were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ). This represents a significant increase from the previous year’s report (an all time low at 12.8%, 14 out of 109 films). This is also the second highest percentage of inclusive films found in the seven-year history of the report, just behind 18.4 percent of films (23 of 125) in 2016.

For the first time in the report’s history, there were an equal number of films which included gay and lesbian characters, with 55 percent (11) of LGBTQ-inclusive films counting gay men, and 55 percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films featuring lesbian characters. Bisexual representation remained steady at a mere 15 percent (three films). For the second year in a row, transgender characters were entirely absent from the 110 major studio releases.

In last year’s Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD called on the seven major film studios to ensure that 20 percent of annual releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50 percent of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024. Four of the seven studios hit this 20 percent goal individually - 20th Century Fox at 40 percent, Universal Pictures with 30 percent, then Warner Brothers at 22 percent, and Paramount rounding out at exactly 20 percent.

“The successful releases of films including Love, Simon, Deadpool 2 and Blockers, brought fresh LGBTQ stories to audiences around the world and have raised the bar for LGBTQ inclusion in film,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “While the film industry should include more stories of LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, studios are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films.”

In this year’s SRI, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures both received a ‘Good’ rating; Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and Warner Brothers received ‘Insufficient’ ratings; and Lionsgate Entertainment and Walt Disney received ‘Failing’ ratings.

While the number of LGBTQ characters increased over the past year, there was a significant drop in racial diversity of LGBTQ characters. In 2018, 42 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color (19 of 45) and 58 percent (26) were white. This is a decrease of fifteen percentage points from the 57 percent of LGBTQ characters of color in 2017.Despite a decrease in racial diversity as a whole, GLAAD counted six Asian/Pacific Islander (API LGBTQ characters (13 percent) in major studio releases in 2018. This is a notable improvement from the previous year when API LGBTQ characters were entirely absent from mainstream releases.

GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index offers the following recommendations on how studios can both improve depictions of LGBTQ characters and stop repeating mistakes:

  • LGBTQ characters saw more screen time than in previous years – but there is still progress to be made. Of the 20 LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018, GLAAD found that ten films featured more than ten minutes of screen-time for an LGBTQ character. Of the 45 LGBTQ characters counted this year, 26 of them had less than three minutes of screen time and 16 of those had under one minute.
  • Animated and family films must be more inclusive of LGBTQ characters. None of the 18 films that fell under the category of animated/family film released by major studios in 2018 included LGBTQ characters. This is the first time in five years that GLAAD has not counted a single film in that genre as LGBTQ-inclusive.
  • The full diversity of the LGBTQ community must be better reflected in wide-release film. In 2018, 42 percent of the LGBTQ characters GLAAD counted were people of color. This is a fifteen-percentage point decrease from 2017. A notable improvement from 2017’s report is the inclusion of Asian-Pacific Islander (API) LGBTQ people. In 2018, API LGBTQ characters made up 13 percent (six) of all LGBTQ characters compared to zero characters in 2017. However, there was a significant drop in Latinx queer characters from 28.5 percent to 7 percent. GLAAD urges Hollywood to quickly move forward in telling stories of LGBTQ characters at the intersection of multiple identities. This also includes more queer characters with a disability, those of different religions, body types, more trans characters, more queer women, and others.
  • Of the 110 major studio films released in 2018, GLAAD did not count a single transgender character. Major studio film is behind the rest of Hollywood when it comes to trans representation. In the year that saw the groundbreaking FX television series Pose put a multitude of trans stories front and center and trans creators behind the scenes, Supergirl introduced America to TV’s first trans superhero, and A Fantastic Woman took home an Oscar; there were still no transgender characters in any major studio film.

“We know that inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for the bottom line. Audiences supported stand out LGBTQ-inclusive wide releases last year with both their dollars and social buzz. Nielsen found that LGBTQ audiences are 22 percent more likely to see a theatrical release more than once,” said Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis. “The studios should recognize the power of LGBTQ moviegoers and the desire for stories that reflect ourselves, and create and market more films for this audience who is ready to buy tickets.”

Nielsen’s State of the LGBTQ Moviegoer report explicitly states “studios and theaters alike can bolster box office sales by […] tailoring their promotions and offerings to LGBT moviegoers’ entertainment needs.” Nielsen found that queer audiences are 22 percent more likely to see a new theatrical release more than once compared to straight audiences. Additionally, LGBTQ audiences are nine percent more likely to purchase a physical or digital copy than straight audiences.

LGBTQ audiences are also more likely to generate social media buzz and word of mouth recommendations. Forty-nine percent of all LGBTQ moviegoers said they texted, tweeted, or otherwise posted about a film the same day they saw it as compared with 34 percent of straight audiences, per Nielsen. LGBTQ fans are more likely to select both Horror and Sci-Fi genre films as favorite than straight audiences.

Studios should take note of these trends, particularly when promoting and advertising titles that include LGBTQ characters, and let audiences know why they should turn out to their local multiplex.

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 or 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.

GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index found that 65 percent (13 of 20) of LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018 passed the Vito Russo Test, which is the highest percentage recorded in the report’s history. The major studio releases that passed the Vito Russo Test in 2018 include Love, Simon, Blockers, Deadpool 2, Crazy Rich Asians, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and more.

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