Disney Was In The Hot Seat Over Florida's Don't Say Gay, But New Study Finds It Has Been Doing A Lot Better Than Other Studios

Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos in Eternals
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which banned the instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools became a law in Florida earlier this year, lead to criticism of the Walt Disney Company for not speaking out against it. After being put in the hot seat, the studio went on to condemn the legislation and vow to help have it repealed. Disney may often be privy to backlash regarding LGBTQ+ representation, but it’s actually among the leading studios with inclusion for queer characters in movies, per a new study. 

In a new report from GLAAD, the organization committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion in entertainment found that Walt Disney Studios had more LGBTQ+ inclusive films than any other major studio in 2021. That being said, Disney was graded with an “insufficient” rating by the organization, signaling that Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to representation. 

Among the lowest graded studios was Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures, who received a “failing” rating with zero LGBTQ+ inclusive films last year. Warner Bros. got a “poor” rating, with only one film passing its representation test, In The Heights. The rest of the major studios, Sony, United Artists, Universal and Disney were hit with an “insufficient” rating, which is the highest inclusivity scores to be handed out for last year's report. 

Disney improved from previous years where it received “poor” and “failing” grades with five total LGBTQ+ inclusive films including Eternals, Cruella and Jungle Cruise in 2021. This year the studio continued to represent the queer community with its major releases, between replacing a previously cut same-sex kiss in Lightyear, introducing it’s first openly queer lead in a Disney animated feature film with Jaboukie Young-White’s Strange World character along with additional nods in Marvel films, despite many of them being pretty miniscule. 

So while Disney could certainly do more in regards to LGBTQ+ inclusion on film, at least there remains a concerted presence within its films than other studios. Per the 2021 results, LGBTQ+ inclusive films that passed GLAAD’s test for authentic representation from major studios actually fell quite a bit from previous years. 

Last year it was 56 percent, which is lower than the last four years. The test, called the Vito Russo Test, will give a movie a pass rating if it contains a character that is identifiably part of the LGBTQ+ community, who is not predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity along with having to be tied to the plot in a significant way and must not be outwardly offensive. 

As we now look back at 2022, Paramount Pictures did include a queer final girl in Jasmin Savoy Brown’s Scream character and Universal released the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio with Bros. We wonder which studio is leading 2022? We’ll continue to follow Hollywood representation among 2023's movie releases here on CinemaBlend. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.