GLAAD finds movies lag behind TV in LGBT roles
NEW YORK - We may be seeing more prominent gay and lesbian characters on TV shows, but the movie industry lags well behind the small screen, an advocacy group reports.
In its first study of LGBT roles in major studio releases, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation found that compared with TV, where there has been a significant shift over the last decade, "Major studios appear reluctant to include LGBT characters in significant roles or franchises."
In its report released Wednesday, GLAAD found that of the 101 releases from Hollywood's six major studios last year, 14 included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Most were no more than cameos or minor roles, it said, and none of the tracked films had transgender characters.
"Until LGBT characters appear more regularly in these studio films, there will be the appearance of bias," said Wilson Cruz, GLAAD's national spokesperson.
The organization will be meeting with studio executives to discuss the findings, he added.
There were some bright spots in 2012, and some ambiguous ones, the group said. For example, Skyfall, the hugely successful installment of the James Bond franchise, featured a villain, played by Javier Bardem, who was apparently bisexual.
"It was great to see an LGBT character in such a significant role," said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media at GLAAD. "But, unfortunately, the character was also devious, psychotic, and untrustworthy - it fell into that trap."
The report says that genre films like comic-book adaptations that consume much of the studios' capital and promotional efforts have a striking lack of LGBT characters. In The Avengers, it notes, there is a gay news anchor, but his appearance is "so brief it was likely missed by many viewers."
The report - the 2013 Studio Responsibility Index - rates the six studios according to the number of LGBT-inclusive films they released. Ranked worst: 20th Century Fox and Disney, which receive failing grades; Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. were "adequate."
Asked about the report before its release, the studios had no comment.
As part of its index, the group developed criteria to measure the quality of the LGBT roles. They included: whether a character was identifiably LGBT; whether it was not solely or predominantly defined by its sexual orientation or gender identity; and whether it was tied into the plot in such a way that its removal would have a significant effect.
One of the best examples of a 2012 LGBT-inclusive film, according to GLAAD, was an animated family film, ParaNorman, about a misunderstood boy who can communicate with the ghosts of the dead people. In the film, which came from the Portland-based studio LAIKA, Norman's cheerleader sister asks the hunky football hero, Mitch, for a movie date. He casually makes a reference to his boyfriend.
The film's writer and co-director, Chris Butler, said the filmmakers had feared the scene could cost them a PG rating. In the end, it didn't.
Butler said he was disappointed with some negative commentary about the scene - including an online review that praised the film's anti-bullying message of inclusion, but said it ruined matters by making a character gay.
"I was surprised at all the fuss," Butler said. "But on the flip side was the positive reaction."
The movie was the first animated film nominated for a GLAAD award.