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08/21/2013 10:43 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

GLAAD Releases Studio Responsibility Index, Measures LGBT Representation In Movies

GLAAD, an organization that works directly with news media, entertainment media, cultural institutions and social media on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, released today the details of a new initiative that attempts to gauge and analyze the representation of LGBT individuals within films produced by the "Big Six" studios in the entertainment industry.

Titled the Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), the report "maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the six major motion picture studios during the 2012 calendar year," according to a press release from GLAAD sent to The Huffington Post.

Previously, GLAAD has sponsored and released its annual Network Responsibility Index that evaluates the inclusivity and quality of LGBT representation on broadcast television and cable networks. The SRI aims to take this framework for analysis and translate it into a format that works for the film industry, and ultimately hold studios accountable for their portrayals of LGBT characters.

“As a major influence in American culture and one of our nation's largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change,” said actor and GLAAD activist Wilson Cruz. “Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios’ part. Whether it's an action hero or a supporting character, moviegoers should be able to see LGBT people as integral players in the stories told by leading Hollywood studios.”

Analyzing films produced by 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers, the SRI incorporated 101 films released during 2012 into this project, finding that only 14 included lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters within the plot-line.

None of the 101 films produced by these six studios included a character identifying as transgender. Further, only six of the 14 films included a lesbian, gay or bisexual character who managed to pass the Vito Russo Test, explained by GLAAD as a set of criteria that deconstructs and analyzes the way in which LGBT characters are portrayed in a fictional piece of work.

According to a press release, the Vito Russo test takes into consideration:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).
  • The LGBT 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 colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.

Though the lack of LGBT representation in big-budget films over the past year is fairly disheartening, particularly the complete lack of transgender characters, the report found that Universal Pictures leads the other five studios in 2012 LGBT-inclusive theatrical releases.

The results gathered through GLAAD's SRI initiative are numerically concise and extensive. The organization also provides recommendations for the "Big Six" as to actions they can take in order to make their films more inclusive and representative of the LGBT community. To view the rest of the report, visit GLAAD's website.

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