LGBT people ‘virtually non-existent’ in top Hollywood films

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

There are remarkably few LGBT characters in mainstream cinema, according to a new study.

While this is not shocking news, the data reveals just how under-represented LGBT people are, both on and off-screen.

The study – conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California – examined 700 films released between 2007 and 2014 and looked at those featured onscreen as well as those involved in film production.

LGBT filmmakers were found to feature more women, people of colour, and LGBT characters in their work.

It was found that only 0.4% of leading characters were gay. Furthermore, out of a total of 4,610 characters in the top 100 films of 2014, ten were gay men; four were lesbian; and five were bisexual. There wasn’t a single trans character.

Only 14 of the 100 films had any LGBT characters.

Researchers also noted that almost no LGB characters in films were shown in healthy relationships.

They noted:  “Three trends were apparent in portrayals of LGB characters in the top‐grossing films of 2014.

“First, 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.

“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”

It seems that a decade after ‘Brokeback Mountain’, LGBT characters still aren’t being portrayed as a regular part of every day life.

In saying that, LGBT individuals aren’t the only people who were found to be underserved in mainstream films.

Race was another area that was looked at in the study. There were only three women of colour in major cinematic roles last year, and less than 6% of the directors were black. Of the 19 LGB characters in films from 2014, almost 85% were white.

In terms of gender a third of major film characters were women in this period. Over a quarter of female characters showed some nudity, compared to only 9% of male ones. Shockingly, the study found that 13-20 year-old women were just as likely to be shown in sexy attire as women aged 21-39.

Behind the camera, a shockingly low 11% of writers were women. The figure for female directors is even worse, with only 2 women in the director’s chair in 2014’s top films.

The researchers concluded: “The landscape of popular cinema in 2014 remains skewed and stereotypical.

“Across 700 films and over 30,000 speaking characters from 2007 to present, 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’.”

They added: “Only with sustained effort and change can Hollywood move from an industry of inequality to one of inclusion.”

It seems like the film industry should take a break from making sequels and start diversifying.