GLAAD metric notes rise in LGBT-themed shows, films


Kylie Yamada, Feature Editor

Over 50 years ago, the Natalie Wood film “Inside Daisy Clover” was released to controversy for featuring a bisexual character who is not ashamed of his sexual orientation and does not commit murder or suicide in the film. In 1965, the film was one of the first motion-pictures to portray same-sex attraction.

Since then, several Oscar nominees have featured gay-centric characters and stories. Last year’s Best Picture winner “Moonlight” was acclaimed for its story, which examined how issues of race, class and sexuality intersect over a lifetime.

For the next Oscars ceremony, director Luca Guadagnino’s Italian period piece “Call Me By Your Name” has been nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Indie films studios have developed several LGBT-themed films over the last decade: “Carol” and “Tangerine” in 2015 and “Pride” in 2014.

However, for casual moviegoers, LGBT representation has been scarce.

GLAAD (formerly standing for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) determines gay representation with one simple metric: the Vito Russo test. Named after GLAAD’s co-founder, a movie passes the test if it features three criteria: a character who is recognizably gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the character must be defined by traits outside of their sexuality and the character must be extrinsically tied to the plot so that they cannot be easily removed.

In 2017, several major films featured minor characters confirmed as queer, such as “Beauty and the Beast.” However, only nine passed the Vito Russo Test. More commonly, characters’ sexualities serve purely as subtext or one-off jokes. Le Fou in “Beauty and the Beast,” for example, is primarily comic relief and his sexuality was only confirmed in an interview with the director.

“I’ve always seen [gay characters who are] supporting characters, not the main protagonist,” senior Kayla Banola said.

Among films which do tell queejr stories, gay men are represented far more commonly than lesbians or bisexuals of either gender. Transgender people receive even fewer roles and are often exclusively the punchline to a joke; such is the case in “Zoolander 2,” which GLAAD reprimanded for its transgender character All, played by cisgender actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

However, the future shows signs of change.

In March 2018, 20th Century Fox is releasing “Love, Simon,” a romantic-comedy featuring a closeted gay teen. Adapted from a book by Becky Albertalli, it tells the story of Simon, a high school student who starts emailing an anonymous boy who also attends his school.

“I’m really excited,” junior Ryan Duff said. “It’s the first time I will ever have seen a film in theatres that is about gay people or a gay person. That is really huge.”

Additionally, T.V. shows have increased in LGBT representation faster than film. Several shows aimed at teenagers feature gay and lesbian characters. “Supergirl,” “The 100” and “Black Lightning” all prominently feature lesbian and bisexual characters.

“If you think back to when LGBT people first started becoming visible in society, we’ve been working since then,” Duff said. “We’re still just not fully there yet because it takes time for society to get used to it.”