LGBT stories still absent from films, study finds

There is a distinct lack of LGBT characters seen on mainstream cinema screens, a new study has revealed. Pink News reports the University of Southern California research study, Inequality in 700 Popular Films, reviewed a total of 700 films and 30,835 characters across the top 100 grossing films from 2007 to 2014 as the most detailed examination of its kind. 5500280 The seven-year snapshot assessed speaking or named characters for demographics, domestic traits, and hypersexualisation, with the top 100 films of 2014 also profiled to find “whether characters were portrayed as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/or Transgender (LGBT)”. Despite a stronger presence of LGBT stories over the last decade – from Milk to Brokeback Mountain to last year’s Pride - just 19 characters across the 4,610 characters (0.4%) in the 100 top films of 2014 were lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only 14 films in the top 100 portrayed any LGBT characters at all, and researchers noted than none of the characters were shown to be in healthy relationships. Within the sample set, nearly two‐thirds of LGBT characters were male (63.2%), predominately white (84.2%), only 36.8% were female, and just 15.8% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds. Not one transgender character was portrayed. "Clearly, Hollywood is substantially under indexing on inclusive portrayals of the LGBT  community," wrote researchers. datastudy The study also noted three trends. “Depictions of healthy romantic/sexual relationships were scarce Of 19 LGB characters, only two were portrayed as being in a public, stable, long‐term partnership and two were shown dating,” it said. “Notably, these characters represented interracial (Asian/White) Lesbian couples. However, no Gay or Bisexual male characters were portrayed in a committed relationship. “Second, no LGB characters were depicted as parents raising young children together. Finally, a handful of Gay and Bisexual characters were shown concealing their sexuality”. The report, which also looked at gender and race, found the LGBT community is not alone in under-representation. Off camera, just 11% of screenwriters were women, with only two female directors responsible for leading a 2014 release. In closing comments, the report said the “landscape of popular cinema in 2014 remains skewed and stereotypical”. “Movies continue to distort the demographic reality of their audience. Film characters are overwhelmingly White and male, despite both population statistics and viewing patterns. “Employment trends behind the camera evidence a similar dearth of diversity. Only five Black directors helmed top movies in 2014, and women were under-represented by a factor of 5.3 to 1 as directors, writers, and producers in 2014. “Further, the 100 top films of 2014 featured no Asian directors. Despite activism, attention, and statements about addressing the issue, Hollywood’s default setting for characters and content creators remains fixed on ‘status quo’.” While the report said "change may be on the horizon" through new releases such as Pitch Perfect 2 and Cinderella,  it would be only through "sustained effort and change" that would shift Hollywood "from an industry of inequality to one of inclusion.” Words by TROY NANKERVIS.