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Film and TV

There wasn’t a single explicitly transgender character in any of last year’s 118 major blockbusters. Zero. Not one

Nick Duffy July 22, 2020
Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson played Black Widow in Avengers, one of 118 films devoid of trans representation. (Marvel/YouTube)

An analysis of films released by major Hollywood studios in 2019 has found that between them they feature exactly zero transgender characters.

GLAAD’s annual studio responsibility index found that of the 118 major releases in 2019, only 22 (18.6 per cent) included any form of LGBT+ representation.

Of the 22 films that did include some form of representation, gay men appeared in 15, lesbians in eight, bisexual characters in just three, and transgender characters in none at all.

Even where LGBT+ characters were included, they were typically confined to supporting roles — with 56 per cent receiving less than three minutes of total screen time. Many instances of representation, GLAAD notes, “were so minor that they were not given names”.

The films in that category include box office titan Avengers: Endgame, which included a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in which an unnamed character refers to going on a date with another man. The reference was so vague it was translated out of existence in some international releases.

The completely straight, cisgender Avengers in action (Marvel Studios)

On the lack of trans representation, GLAAD said: “Disappointingly, film continues to lag behind other media as a third straight year passes with zero transgender characters in major releases.

“Meanwhile, the same time period on TV has seen the premiere of FX’s history making Pose, television’s first transgender superhero on The CW’s Supergirl, and transgender men stepping into series regular roles on FOX’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, and Showtime’s The L Word and Work in Progress. Yet, major studio films continue to leave trans characters out of the story.”

GLAAD pointed out that there were four trans and/or non-binary actors in 2019 releases – Trace Lysette in Hustlers, Indya Moore in Queen & Slim, Zach Barack in Spider-Man: Far From Home and Asia Kate Dillon in John Wick 3 – but none of their characters were established as trans.

“We are pleased to see trans actors being cast in roles that are not explicitly written as transgender. However, for this report, GLAAD did not count those characters in its tally based on what was on screen,” it explained.

GLAAD has called on the major film studios to ensure that 20 per cent of annual releases include LGBT+ characters by 2021 – with a target of 50 per cent by 2024.

GLAAD: Hollywood studios ‘must embrace’ LGBT+ diversity to stay relevant to audiences.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, said: “Film has the power to educate, enlighten, and entertain audiences around the world and, in today’s divisive political and cultural climate, we must prioritise telling LGBTQ stories and the stories of all marginalised people.

“Despite seeing a record high percentage of LGBTQ-inclusive films this year, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of fairly and accurately representing the LGBTQ community.

“If film studios want to stay relevant to today’s audiences and compete in an industry that is emphasising diversity and inclusion, then they must urgently reverse course on the diminishing representation of LGBTQ women and people of colour, as well as the complete absence of trans characters.”

Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis, said: “Telling meaningful LGBTQ stories is not just the right thing to do, it’s also just smart business.

“LGBTQ people are a significant audience who are supporting LGBTQ-inclusive films with our dollars and digital attention.

“Nielsen found LGBTQ audiences are more likely to see a new theatrical release more than once compared to straight audiences, and continue to stay engaged consumers, with higher levels of purchasing a digital copy, subscription service, and spreading the word online.

“Studios should recognise the power of LGBTQ audiences and the desire for stories that reflect our lives, by delivering and unambiguously marketing films and franchises that include nuanced and authentic LGBTQ characters.”

More: GLAAD, Hollywood, studios, Transgender

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