Indie Movies Aren’t Nearly as Progressive as You Might Think

A new report from GLAAD shows that ‘art house’ films lag behind mainstream blockbusters in terms of LGBT representation.

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Apr 15, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

It’s no secret that 2014 was a groundbreaking year for television. Jeffrey Tambor took home a Golden Globe for his transgender role in Transparent, an ABC family show portrayed the youngest gay kiss on television, and the GLAAD Media Awards doubled its television categories to accommodate the wealth of well-rounded LGBT characters on shows such as Looking and Orange Is the New Black.

While TV shows have grown increasingly progressive, movies still lag behind in their portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters, according to the 2015 Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD’s third annual report intended to evaluate mainstream Hollywood depictions of the LGBT community. Analysts looked at the seven movie studios with the highest-grossing theatrical releases in 2014 to determine that just 17.5 percent of releases incorporated LGBT characters—a slight improvement over last year’s inclusion rate of 16.7 percent.

The major caveat: The characters in half of those films had less than five minutes of screen time. Warner Brothers scored highest, with seven of 22 films—including Blended, Jersey Boys, and Horrible Bosses 2—ranked as LGBT-inclusive, while Disney and Sony landed last, each with just one film meeting GLAAD’s criteria.

Most surprising is that the films typically marketed as “independent” or “art house” aren’t nearly as inclusive as their mainstream counterparts: Just 10.6 percent of the films released by smaller studios were LGBT-inclusive. GLAAD tracked the data for the first time this year on the insistence of several big studios that suggested their “art house” imprints were more inclusive. The GLAAD report shows a different story.

“As television and streaming services continue to produce a remarkable breadth of diverse LGBT representations, we still struggle to find depictions anywhere near as authentic or meaningful in mainstream Hollywood film,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “The industry continues to look increasingly out of touch by comparison and still doesn't represent the full diversity of the American cultural fabric.”

Television continues to trump film in more ways than one, but the movie industry’s massive influence can’t be understated, according to the authors of the report. They’re optimistic that any stagnation in the film industry will inspire—not discourage—studios to “get with the times and innovate.”