The weirdest thing happened in December 2018: For the first time ever, we were able to make a year-end list of best lesbian and bisexual movies. And not low-budget indie films that only made their way around LGBTQ festival circuits. We’re talking major studio films here. We’re talking Kristen Stewart in Lizzie, Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation, Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor, Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Disobedience, Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me, Keira Knightly in Colette, Kiersey Clemons and Sasha Lane in Hearts Beat Loud, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. We’re talking Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in The Favourite. Also, of course, the Academy Award Winner of Riese Bernard’s Heart: Blockers.
It felt good to be able to put 15 movies on a list! And today, in their annual Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD confirmed that good feeling with numbers — while also emphasizing that a win for lesbian and gay characters in movies isn’t a win for the entire LGBTQ community. Racial diversity among LGBTQ characters is down (there was a 15 percentage point decrease in POC characters between 2017 and 2018). There wasn’t one single trans character in a major studio release. And LGBTQ rep for kids remains dismal (none of the animated/family films released by major studios had LGBTQ characters, and GLAAD is even willing to count, like, one minor comic relief sidekick quickly mentioning he’s not married to a woman in How to Train Your Dragon 2 as a win.)
Some other key findings:
+ 20 LGBTQ-inclusive films were released in 2018.
+ Ten films featured more than ten minutes of screen-time for lesbian and gay characters.
+ 45 LGBTQ characters made it into mainstream movies in 2018.
+ 26 of those characters had less than three minutes of screen time; 16 had less than one minute.
+ Zero LGBTQ characters for kids were counted in 2018.
+ Zero trans characters were counted in 2018.
+ POC LGBTQ characters only made up 42% of LGBTQ characters.
What’s puzzling about the movie industry’s unwillingness to catch up with the LGBTQ revolution on TV, GLAAD points out, is that queer people pay money to watch basically anything that has even the tiniest bit of representation in it and then talk about it, at length, on every single social media platform. That’s not anecdotal based on my own personal Twitter timeline; GLAAD cites numbers: “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.”
Bottom line: There’s lots to celebrate but we’ve still got a very long way to go, especially when it comes to characters who aren’t white and cis.
“GLAAD urges Hollywood to quickly move forward in telling stories of LGBTQ characters at the intersection of multiple identities,” the report reads. “This also includes more queer characters with a disability, those of different religions, body types, more trans characters, more queer women, and others”