2017 rating

Failing

Poor
2016 rating
Failing
2015 rating
Good
2014 rating
Failing
2013 rating
Adequate
2012 rating
18
Films released theatrically in 2017 under studio & official imprints
2
Total number of LGBTQ-inclusive films
11%
Percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films of studio total releases
1
Films that pass the Vito Russo Test

Started in the early 1900s by four Polish immigrant brothers as a simple movie theater business, following several decades of growth Warner Brothers Pictures was formally incorporated in 1923 as a full-fledged film studio. Over the years, Warner Brothers produced such classics as Casablanca, A Clockwork Orange, Goodfellas, and Blade Runner.

One of Warner Brothers’ most iconic films also contains one of the earliest and most celebrated gay-coded characters in mainstream American cinema: Sal Mineo’s tragic Plato in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. Over the subsequent years, there were other notable inclusive films released by Warner Brothers, including Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Color Purple (1985), Interview with the Vampire (1994), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). Notably, nearly every one of those films was based on source material that included LGBTQ characters. More recently, Warner Brothers has also released inclusive films like Alexander (2004), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), V For Vendetta (2005), J. Edgar (2011), Tammy (2014), and Storks (2016).

In 2017, Warner Brothers released 18 films, of which two included appearances by LGBTQ people, amounting to 11%. One of these films passed the Vito Russo Test.

CHiPS

Passes Vito Russo Test

Widest theatrical release: 2,464 theaters

This buddy comedy based on the television series of the same name reads as though the writers never made it past 1983, the year the CHiPS show ended, in its treatment of the gay characters it includes and its incessant gay panic jokes.

California Highway Patrol officers John and Ponch are investigating a case involving a fellow CHP agent, TJ, who died by suicide after a criminal threatened the life of a hostage (and TJ’s boyfriend), David. John and Ponch discover that the two were a couple and trying to escape from their criminal boss, but were caught before they could get away. John and Ponch also work with another officer, Terry, whose only character trait involves ogling his fellow officers and their discomfort with him checking them out. The film just barely squeaks by in passing the Vito Russo Test as David’s death is the catalyst for the investigation that sets up the movie and his removal would greatly affect the plot. All three characters – TJ, David, and Terry - have under a minute of screen time each. This film remains an example of a film that passes the test’s low bar in actually including an important LGBTQ character, but the story beyond that is nevertheless offensive.

Much more than a minute is spent on the film’s gay panic-exploiting punchlines. Ponch is routinely uncomfortable seeing other men shirtless, and seeing them hug each other. Though John calls him out repeatedly on his homophobia, it is to no effect, and John clearly does not mind this kind of language. “It’s not cool to be homophobic, but I respect your right to be,” he says in reaction to Ponch cringing at the idea of touching him. Midway through the film, Ponch accidentally falls face first into John’s crotch and both men scream, disgusted. This kind of so-called humor continues through the whole movie.

These “jokes” are part of a trend that we are tired of seeing. They reinforce outdated ideals of masculinity and project the false idea that in order to appeal to one demographic, the film must insult another audience. The critical failure of CHiPS and low box office (compared to the success of more inclusive, less offensive films in the genre such as Blockers and Neighbors 2) should signal to studios that this type of “comedy” is outdated, offensive, and does not make sound business sense as an investment.

Everything, Everything

Fails Vito Russo Test

Widest theatrical release: 2,801 theaters

While Everything, Everything did not include any LGBTQ characters, in the source novel of the same name, the male lead’s best friend was gay. It is disappointing that the adaptation chose to cut this character and his story.

Fist Fight

Fails Vito Russo Test

Widest theatrical release: 3,185 theaters

In an early scene of this raunchy comedy, English teacher Andy finds that someone has written “Mr. Dick Sucks English Class” on his chalkboard. He calls out the class, saying that this was a homophobic joke and asks, “How would Blake feel?” as the only gay kid in the class. It turns out that Blake was actually the student who made the joke, and his classmates cheer him on. Though it was a pleasant surprise that the gay character was not the punch line of the joke himself, he still was only included as part of a joke and never received any development or story.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Fails Vito Russo Test

Widest theatrical release: 4,088 theaters

The first spin-off of The LEGO Movie franchise, this film follows the LEGO versions of Batman, Robin, and company as they try to defeat the Joker’s newest scheme to take over Gotham City. Throughout the film, there is a running gag that The Joker considers Batman to be his worst enemy, but the sentiment is not reciprocated. Much of their language echoes clichés about relationships to the point of Batman saying, “There is no us” when Joker questions him about his fighting other people, and Joker quipping, “I’m off the market” when he is tired of Batman running back to him. The joke of all this is never directed at the idea of two men being in a relationship, but more poking fun at the dynamics between superheroes and villains.

Also in this movie, Batman accidentally adopts Robin when he is Bruce Wayne. For a while, Robin thinks both Batman and Bruce are his two dads. Though he says nothing about a relationship between the two alter egos, he is very excited about having two dads. Though it would have been nice to see actual queer characters appear in the film - canonically bisexual heroes Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn had very small roles though they are not included in the tally as there were no in-film references -  it was good that the humor did not sink to the level of making fun of gay relationships.

Wonder Woman

Fails Vito Russo Test

Widest theatrical release: 4,165 theaters

Warner Brothers hit DC Comics film Wonder Woman won well-deserved critical acclaim, and has seen record-breaking success at the box office. The film follows Diana aka Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazonian island Themyscira, as she grows up and leaves her home behind to protect humankind during World War I. While the movie makes coy references to the fact that the Amazons - an immortal group of women who have lived together in isolation for thousands of years - were involved in romantic relationships with each other, it never commits to having an actual queer character. In the comics’ recent Rebirth run, writer Greg Rucka confirmed that Diana is canonically bisexual, saying, “the answer is obviously yes” that Diana has been in love and had serious relationships with women. In recent issues, she discusses the love she left behind, an Amazon named Kasia. While Rucka’s run began after principal shooting for this film had already finished, we expect to see DC pull from this storyline as they work on the film’s sequel.

Diana’s character is grounded in the power of being truthful and forthright. Being an out and proud bi woman would be in line with her ideals to fully live her own truth and recognize all parts of herself.  Portraying Diana as bi would also be a welcome sign of progress for comic book films. While LGBTQ characters have made huge strides on the pages of comics, very few have made the jump to the big screen. GLAAD Campus Ambassador Gianna Collier-Pitts launched a petition this past fall calling on Warner Brothers to let Wonder Woman be bisexual on screen in the sequel and associated DCEU appearances – currently over 10,000 fans have signed on to the ask.

OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD

The upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald heavily features the character of Dumbledore fighting against the dark wizard Grindelwald. Author and screenwriter JK Rowling has said multiple times that Dumbledore is gay and was in love with Grindelwald. However, director David Yates has said Dumbledore will not be “explicitly gay” in this film. Though Rowling has expressed that in the five-film franchise, their relationship will eventually be addressed, this erasure of Dumbledore’s sexuality is glaring and reflects poorly on the franchise that has such a foundational message of love and acceptance of others.

Warner Brothers is also planning many more films as part of the DC Comics Extended Universe, a good number of which include Wonder Woman, whose bisexuality from the comics needs to be present in her on-screen counterpart’s story. Additionally, there are a number of films set to star Harley Quinn, who is bisexual in several DC stories. In particular, the announced film Gotham City Sirens centers on Harley, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman; all of whom have had previous romantic relationships with women. We hope to see these films catch up to the steps that DC has already taken on the page.

Click here to see the other studios's ratings.