Observations & Recommendations

GLAAD offers the following insights 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. Several of these films made sure their queer characters had substance and put them in a leading or significant role. Even so, there is work to be done. Though many of these characters told interesting and compelling stories, increased screen time did not always equate to meaningful stories as seen in films like Green Book and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Additionally, of the 45 LGBTQ characters counted this year, 26 of them had less than three minutes of screen time with 16 of those clocking in under one minute. There is still plenty of work to be done in elevating queer characters and stories.  

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. Hollywood must tell authentic stories of LGBTQ people of color from all walks of life. 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, characters who are asexual, intersex characters, and others.

Only three films counted in GLAAD’s report included bisexual+ characters from the major studios.

Given that bisexual+ people make up the majority of the LGB community, it is disheartening that only three of 20 inclusive films (or 110 total films) included depictions of bi+ characters. Bi+ characters are much more visible in other media, including several of the comic books that inspired recent blockbuster films. Unfortunately, the bisexual identities of these heroes do not always jump from page to the screen adaptation. Several films in this report include women who are only shown in queer relationships in a transactional way – that is, they are only sleeping with another woman to gain something they need, rather than out of any genuine interest. Bisexual men, if included at all, often find their identity challenged. These negative stereotypes and portrayals have a real life impact on bisexual+ people, who are less likely to be out than gay and lesbian people and report higher levels of minority stresses than gays or lesbians.

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 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. Just 16 percent of Americans say they know someone who is transgender compared to more than 90 percent who know someone who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual.¹ There is an incredible opportunity for entertainment media to be a leader in this space by sharing and uplifting the stories of trans people, and we’d like to see film catch up to TV in this respect. GLAAD partnered with 5050by2020 to release TRANSform Hollywood last year: a free, in-depth digital guide offering tips and best practices for collaborating with trans storytellers and fostering a more trans-inclusive production environment.

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. In 2017, Disney included a gay character in Beauty and the Beast, which seemed to be a small step forward towards more LGBTQ characters in family films. However, the lack of any inclusive films in the genre last year seems to indicate that recent inclusive family releases like Storks (2016, Warner Bros,), Angry Birds (2016, Sony), and ParaNorman (2012, Focus Features) may have been anomalies rather than the beginning of steady progress. Meanwhile, television has been introducing more and more inclusive content aimed at younger audiences, leading to the creation of the GLAAD Media Award category for Kids and Family Programming in 2017. LGBTQ people – including families led by LGBTQ parents - are a reality of the world experienced by young people, and it is important that the movies that children and their families go to see in the theater reflect that.

The stand-out inclusive wide release films highlight teenage stories.

Several of the films that passed the Vito Russo test contained well-rounded queer characters, and provided plenty of screen time for them, are specifically focused on telling the stories of LGBTQ teens and young people. Three of the five nominees in the Outstanding Film – Wide Release category of the GLAAD Media Awards featured gay or lesbian teenagers. Love, Simon, which received the award, included three gay teenage characters. GLAAD and The Harris Poll found that 20 percent of American millennials are LGBTQ, so this inclusion is a positive step towards reflecting the real world. This inclusion has also paid off at the box office with Love, Simon, Blockers, and Deadpool 2 making back 3.5 or more times their production costs. The MPAA reports that 38 percent of Americans and Canadians 18-39 are “frequent cinemagoers” who visit the theater once or more a month.

The results: 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros.

1 “Accelerating Acceptance.” GLAAD/Harris Poll. March 2017.