There was an alarming drop in representation of LGBTQ* people in films in 2017, an annual GLAAD report has shown.

The US media advocacy organisation released its sixth Studio Responsibility Index report yesterday, which is an annual survey of the quantity, quality and diversity of LGBTQ people in film releases of major Hollywood production companies.

The report highlighted a huge drop in the number of movies released by major production houses with representation of LGBTQ people: just 14 of the 109 film releases in 2017 (12.8%) had an LGBTQ character. This is in comparison to last year’s report, where this figure was 23 of 125 films, or 18.4%.

Not a single character in the movies GLAAD evaluated had a transgender person, a drop from the one character in 2016, who served as the punchline to a joke.

Of the 14 LGBTQ-inclusive releases in 2017, only 9 passed the Vito Russo quality test, with 50% of the characters on screen for less than 5 minutes.

Australian LGBTI Media Centre Director Andre Charadia said that the survey shows a worrying decline. “Right when films should be getting better and better at representation, we’re going backwards. The results of GLAAD’s survey should concern anyone who wants to see more diverse faces on screen,” he said.

“Australians are big consumers of Hollywood products, especially Hollywood films, so we have an interest in demanding better representation on screen. The huge success of movies like Black Panther show audiences have an appetite for a wide range of stories.”

“LGBTIQ people are an integral part of societies around the world and the media we consume should reflect that, not just for the sake of representation, but because it increases acceptance and mutual respect across our society, and enriches our culture.”

Read the full GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index report here: www.glaad.org/sri/2018/

NOTES: Screen Australia conducted a survey into the diversity of Australian film and television in 2016: https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/reports-and-key-issues/reports-and-discussion-papers/seeing-ourselves

* lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The GLAAD report doesn’t currently take into account representation of intersex people in its survey

GLAAD uses the Vito Russo test for its qualitative analysis. The Vito Russo test criteria:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ)
  • 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/non-transgender characters from one another)
  • 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 colourful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

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