There hasn’t been a single trans character in a major Hollywood film for four years

·4-min read

There hasn’t been a single trans or non-binary character in a major Hollywood film for four years, proving Hollywood still has a long way to go towards LGBT+ representation.

LGBT+ media advocacy organisation GLAAD released its ninth annual Studio Responsibility Index Thursday (15 July), which tracks the representation of queer characters released by eight major Hollywood studios in 2020.

The study found that there were no trans or non-binary characters represented in any of the 44 films released by the eight largest film studios. According to GLAAD, this is the fourth year in a row that trans and non-binary characters were completely absent from any major theatrical film releases.

The report noted this “remains one of the more glaring ways mainstream studios continue to lag behind other forms of entertainment media”.

The last trans character that GLAAD recorded across the movies released by these studios was in the 2016 film Zoolander 2. But GLAAD said Benedict Cumberbatch’s character All, a “non-binary model”, was an “offensive caricature”.

The report stipulated that there were a “handful of major releases” that features trans and non-binary actors in recent years, but the group did not count those in their tally “unless their story was made clear on-screen”.

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis acknowledged in her opening statement for the report that COVID-19 had prompted a “transformation for Hollywood” and hoped this might bring about more LGBT+ stories in the future.

“This transformation represents a great opportunity to swiftly accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ stories, break new ground, and invest in queer and trans talent and stories in an unprecedented way,” she explained.

“Hollywood and the business of storytelling must be more nimble, more creative, more open than ever before.”

Actor and model Leyna Bloom previously made history in 2019 as the first trans woman of colour to lead a movie at the Cannes Film Festival. She played Wyne, a trans woman the love interest of the young drifter Paul, in the romantic drama Port Authority. However, the indie film was released by Momentum Pictures, which was not among the studios counted in the GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index.

Birds of Prey confirms the sexuality of Harley Quinn
Birds of Prey confirms the sexuality of Harley Quinn. (Warner Bros)

Overall LGBT+ representation increased among the major studio films in 2020

Of the 44 films that GLAAD counted from major studios last year, 10 (22.7 per cent) included LGBT+ characters. This was up from 18.6 per cent in 2019.

However, GLAAD noted this “must be taken with a grain of salt within the context” of COVID-19 as there were only 44 films released in 2020, compared to the 118 movies released from the same studios tracked in the 2019 report.

GLAAD counted only 20 LGBT+ characters among the major Hollywood releases in 2020, a decrease from 50 in the previous report.

Of the 10 LGBT-inclusive Hollywood films released in 2020, five films (50 per cent) contained a lesbian character, up from last year’s 36 per cent. Just six major studio films (60 per cent) included gay male characters.

Only one character from a single film (10 per cent) – Harley Quinn from Birds of Prey – was presented as bisexual.

Mj Rodriguez in the final season of Pose. (FX)
Mj Rodriguez in the final season of Pose. (FX)

There has been “amazing progress” towards LGBT+ inclusion on TV series.

The GLAAD report said TV studios had been making great strides in “telling transgender stories and empowering trans writers and actors”. GLAAD specifically highlighted the amazing work done in FX’s phenomenal series Pose, TV’s first trans superhero in Supergirl and Brian Michael Smith’s landmark casting on 9-1-1: Lone Star.

Pose star Mj Rodriguez made Emmys history Tuesday (13 July) as the first trans woman to be nominated for Best Actress. The trailblazing actor was nominated in the Lead Actress, Drama category and will go up against Emma Corrin and Olivia Colman of The Crown, Uzo Aduba (In Treatment), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Jurnee Smollett (Lovecraft Country).

Rodriguez told PinkNews earlier this year that she was “hopeful” the Emmys would recognise her phenomenal work on the FX series.

“I don’t know how it works, but I’m speaking to the universe that one day it’ll happen,” she said.

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