GLAAD’s 2016 Hollywood Report: “Historic Low” For Representation, Star Wars Call Out


GLAAD has released their 2016 Studio Responsibility Index. It’s kind of like the President’s State of the Union for Hollywood representation. There isn’t a lot of great news to report but GLAAD decided to call out Disney-owned Star Wars for its lack of LGBTQ+ characters.


This morning, GLAAD released its fourth annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest studios during the 2015 calendar year. After an improvement in our previous report, we found that racial diversity of LGBT characters drastically decreased and there remains a lack of substantial LGBT characters in mainstream films.

Way to go, Hollywood!


There was no change as to the percentage of films which depicted characters that were identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, just 22 out of 126 releases from the 2015 slate, from the previous year. Still terrible. Also, “Transgender representation is shockingly low with only one character in the mainstream releases of 2015 – whose brief appearance served as a punchline to laugh at when her identity is revealed.”

“Hollywood’s films lag far behind any other form of media when it comes to portrayals of LGBT characters,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO in the report. “Too often, the few LGBT characters that make it to the big screen are the target of a punchline or token characters. The film industry must embrace new and inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant.” Here’s the most general summary:

No studios received a rating of “Good” for their 2015 releases. 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Sony Columbia Pictures, and Universal Pictures all received ratings of “Adequate”, while Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers all received a “Failing” grade for their portrayals of LGBT people.

And a few specific notes I pulled out from GLAAD’s report:

  • Interestingly, the stoner-spy thriller American Ultra positioned a gay CIA agent as the film’s moral center. In a genre that often only includes LGBT characters as villains or one-note stereotypes, it’s refreshing to see a gay character given substance and the same type of humanizing traits as non- LGBT characters.
  • Freeheld is the only film distributed by a major studio last year to be nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.
  • It’s rare for a Hollywood film to focus entirely on LGBT history, but 2015’s Stonewall fumbled the opportunity to shed light on a pivotal moment and went on to fail at the box office.
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl follows the sexual awakening of 15-year-old Minnie in 1970s San Francisco, whose sexual fluidity is portrayed as just another part of coming to understand herself, her desires, and what love really means.

But perhaps most interesting is the push GLAAD makes towards Walt Disney Studios, which not only produces animated features and other “family-friendly” fare, but also now includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Lucasfilm.

For the first time since beginning this report, GLAAD did not find any LGBT-inclusive content among Disney’s yearly slate of films. As recent successful animated films and TV programs have shown (Oscar-nominated ParaNorman, Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe), LGBT people appearing in “all-ages” programming – animated or not – is not the impossible notion it once was. LGBT people are already part of families and communities around the world, and film of all genres should reflect that.

As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced societies can serve as a commentary on our own, the most obvious place where Disney could include LGBT characters is in the upcoming eighth Star Wars film. 2015’s The Force Awakens has introduced a new and diverse central trio, which allows the creators opportunity to tell fresh stories as they develop their backstory. Recent official novels in the franchise featured lesbian and gay characters that could also be easily written in to the story.

So glad they said it. Not that many of us haven’t been saying the same. Even director J.J. Abrams agrees that it makes no sense for there to be zero LGBTQ+ characters in the galaxy. While fandom may be pushing for Stormpilot to happen, I personally hope the rewrites to Episode VIII mean we’ll get confirmation of something at least. And it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see in Rogue One.

As far as their recommendations to Hollywood and creators at large, GLAAD said “Not only must there be a larger number of LGBT roles, but they must be built with substance and purpose.”

“Humor can be a powerful tool for holding a mirror up to society and challenging the norm, but when crafted without thought, it has much the opposite effect and bolsters ignorance and prejudice,” they wrote. “Filmmakers should examine what message they are really sending when they rely on thoughtless humor to exploit an already marginalized community.”

You can read more observations and recommendations here. The full report, broken down by studio, methodology, etc. can be found here.

17 Responses to “GLAAD’s 2016 Hollywood Report: “Historic Low” For Representation, Star Wars Call Out”

  1. […] their 2016 Hollywood Report, GLAAD made specific mention of Disney’s potential to be a leader in diversifying film. “As sci-fi projects have the special opportunity to create unique worlds whose advanced […]

  2. reconstructorofworlds says:

    Dear Disney: please make Rey Ace/Demi/Just not interested, and make StormPilot an official option (even if it goes nowhere, can the characters at least talk about it?)

    • Mad Crocheter says:

      I’m not sure how I feel about Finn falling for literally the first person outside the New Order he meets. Pan Finn would work with his eager puppy who loves everyone vibe.

  3. They Call Me The Fizz says:

    So Max Landis does better queer rep than current Marvel… Just… Wow…

  4. Zatar says:

    “For the first time since beginning this report, GLAAD did not find any LGBT-inclusive content among Disney’s yearly slate of films.”

    I’m honestly surprised that they were previously. I can’t think of any Disney films that were particularly LGBTQ inclusive. I guess there was that one family that’s on screen for two minutes in Frozen? That’s all I can think of.

    • Jason Rye says:

      My guess they including Disney’s sub studios, like what Miramax used be before Disney sold them off in 2010 and what Marvel and Lucasfilm are now.

      • Skemono says:

        “Of all the studios tracked in this report, Walt Disney Studios has the weakest historical record when it comes to LGBT-inclusive films. Touchstone Pictures, however, has released a small handful of films with LGBT characters over the years”

        Their criteria are also apparently ludicrously generous. Previous reports gave points to Muppets Most Wanted because Lady Gaga makes a cameo as herself; and Iron Man 3 for two seconds of MSNBC journalist Thomas Roberts as himself.

  5. the silver ravens says:

    Frozen 2 give Elsa a girlfriend

  6. MrInsecure says:

    Come on, Disney. You’ve been getting a bit better about racial and gender diversity, now you gotta pick back up on the LGBT representation. You can do it, you just gotta try.

    • AnnieOpoly says:

      I don’t understand why Disney would be LGBTQ friendly at their parks, but not through their other forms of media….

      • Evelyn Starshine says:

        the parks not being run by hollywood execs and creators entrenched in hollywoods institutional biases might help?

        • AnnieOpoly says:

          You have a point – it seems a decisive and strategic statement from the very top brass is needed. If corporations are taking a stand against North Carolina, I think Disney can do it with Hollywood.
          There seems to be a difference between “tolerating” the LGBTQ community and actually integrating the community into everyday culture.

      • Chris says:

        I imagine it’s somewhat helped by Disney’s “gay days” and other events being a mainly grassroots thing, at base, even if it’s supported by corporate.

      • Pontifex says:

        Disney’s ABC Family Freeform was the most LGBT* network last year, at 50 percent of original prime time scripted programming, according to GLAAD. So I dunno.