The much-touted “exclusively gay moment” in the Beauty and the Beast remake was not enough to prevent Disney from getting a failing grade in GLAAD’s annual report on LGBTQ representation in Hollywood. Of the seven movie studios with the highest 2016 box-office grosses, GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index rated three as “Failing”—Disney, Sony Pictures, and Lionsgate—with 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and Warner Bros. rated “Poor.” Universal led the pack, rising all the way to “Insufficient,” with the top two categories, “Good” and “Excellent,” left blank. In the five years GLAAD has released similar studies, no studio has ever achieved the top grade.
Given that Universal, the home of the Fast and Furious franchise, is one of the few Hollywood studios to actively bet on racial and gender diversity, it’s not surprising that it also got top marks from GLAAD. But leading a weak field does not mean Universal was a bastion of inclusivity: According to the report, of the 17 Universal movies released in 2016, only five included appearances by LGBTQ characters, those being Bridget Jones’s Baby; Hail, Caesar!; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising; and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. The latter film is especially noteworthy for “Equal Rights,” a parody of Macklemore’s “Same Love” in which Andy Samberg’s “Conner4Real” proclaims his support for gay marriage while incessantly reminding his listeners that he is “not gay.”* The two-minute video features, by GLAAD’s count, 14 LGBTQ characters, a whopping 20 percent of the 70 found in all of the 125 films in the study. In other words, if you want to see one-fifth of all the LGBTQ people Hollywood put on movie screens in 2016, all you have to do is watch this.
GLAAD found the movies released by the studios’ art-house divisions—Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics—fared better overall, with 17 percent of the 41 films they collectively released including some form of LGBTQ representation. But the overall picture is still dire, and the numbers show no sign of consistent improvement year over year. As the report concludes, “Mainstream film continues to lag far behind TV and other forms of media when it comes to LGBTQ representation.”
The most positive detail to extract from the GLAAD report is that a number of the movies featuring LGBTQ characters are aimed at younger audiences, even if you sometimes have to squint to make those characters out: The bickering neighbors of Zootopia’s Judy Hopps are a married gay couple, but you wouldn’t know that unless you scan the credits and see their hyphenated last names. (The lesbian couple some hoped they saw in advance footage of Disney’s Finding Dory turned out to be a mirage.) Sony’s Storks includes a gay couple in a montage of parents happily welcoming their new children, and though the moment is brief, it is unmistakable—and, to many of the children watching the movie, unremarkable. Sony and their fellow studios should realize those children are growing up, and many of them are used to seeing openly LGBTQ people in their everyday lives. They should be able to expect the same from their movies.
*Correction, May 26: This post originally misspelled Popstar character Conner4Real’s name.