Hollywood has become a more inclusive place for filmmakers and actors to tell more diverse stories over the years, but major film studios still have ways to go. Walt Disney Studios was particularly criticized last year for how it handled a number of its attempts at LGBTQ storylines in Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. The media monitoring organization known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a.k.a. GLAAD, has just rated each studio, and Disney’s representation is considered “poor.”
This is the eighth year GLAAD has rated film studios in an effort to promote change for LGBTQ people in the media. For a majority of its annual reports, Disney has been given an even worse “failing” rating. 2019's “poor” score is a slight improvement from the year prior, but not enough to show the House of Mouse is providing the kind of stories to make the underrepresented gay community proud.
Disney released nearly 20 movies in 2019 and is arguably the most important studio to receive this rating since it reigned among the highest box office earners of the year, with seven of its films in the Top 10. The studio also positioned itself with more power in 2019 when it acquired 20th Century Fox – now called 20th Century Studios. A number of high-profile releases attempted to include LGBTQ characters, and not one of them passed GLAAD’s test.
In order for a film to pass the GLAAD Russo Vito test, the movie must include an identifiably LGBTQ character who cannot be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the character must be tied to the plot in some form. Disney’s high-profile efforts at inclusion that failed the test in 2019 were Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Toy Story 4.
In the record-breaking MCU flick, Endgame co-director Joe Russo portrayed a gay character credited as “Grieving Man” for less than a minute as he briefly spoke about a man he loved who died in the Snap. Ahead of Rise of Skywalker’s release, J.J. Abrams promised LGBTQ representation leading fans to believe Finn and Poe would finally have their rumored romance on screen, but this turned out to be two Resistance Fighter women kissing in the background of a scene at the end.
In Toy Story 4, there was also a quick moment that featured a lesbian couple with their arms around one another before dropping their child at school. The presence of the scene was notably boycotted by the anti-LGBTQ group One Million Moms.
According to the organization, the studio has only produced four gay inclusive films ever, which are 2013’s Delivery Man, 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast remake and Lucasfilm’s 1985 biopic Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (before its Disney acquisition), which was protested and later released by Warner Bros. Its Touchstone offshoot has additionally produced a handful of inclusive films, but overall, Disney ranks low when compared to other studios.
Warner Bros and Sony also received “poor” ratings in 2019. The difference is each of those studios had a few movies that passed the GLAAD test. Warner Bros’ The Good Liar, Isn’t It Romantic and IT Chapter 2, and Sony’s A Dog’s Way Home and Charlie’s Angels. No major studio ranked higher than “insufficient” – Lionsgate looks to have lead the pack with five passing movies Anna, Bombshell, Cold Pursuit, Five Feet Apart and Perfect Strangers.
In the next year, Disney the studio will reportedly explore LGBTQ storylines in The New Mutants and The Eternals. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more news on movies.