The Spectacle Blog

The Movies You Watch Aren’t Gay Enough, Say Activists

By on 7.23.14 | 4:37PM

Gay and transgender characters don't feature often enough in major Hollywood films, according to a bizarre claim from the activist organization GLAAD. I say that the claim is bizarre because their gripe is that "only" 17 out of 102 big studio films from 2013 featured gay characters. GLAAD regularly bean counts the number of homosexuals in film in their Studio Responsibility Index. "Only" seems a bit of an odd choice of words, though, when 3.8% of Americans identify as LGBT. If anything, gays are disproportionately represented in movies. This should hardly be surprising, given the distinctly liberal complexion of the entertainment industry.

The 3.8% figure, by the way, comes not from some arch-conservative organization undershooting the numbers. It's from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank which studies--and is sympathetic to--the gay rights agenda. A sensible reader might be asking just what GLAAD's problem is at this point. After all, our liberal friends always say they want an (insert noun here) that "looks like America." A faculty that looks like America. A ladies' garden club that looks like America. A film industry that looks like America. In fact, films are now skewed in their representation of homosexuality. Hollywood's America is now, well, gayer than the America which exists in the real world. Shouldn't GLAAD declare victory in their self-interested crusade for token diversity?

Of course, anyone who follows the narrow special interest groups which have sprung up in our identity politics driven world knows that they'd never do any such thing. According to Erich Schwartzel writing over at the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog, GLAAD's dander is up because the gay characters didn't get enough screen time, didn't feature prominently in the plots, or were deemed to be offensively stereotypical. Their solution, not surprisingly, is to place pressure on studio heads. Per Schwartzel:

GLAAD is asking studios to give their movies a "Vito Russo Test. It’s modeled after the "Bechdel Test," a concept popularized by "Fun Home" memoirist Alison Bechdel that asks if a work of fiction has two women in it who at some point talk to one another about a topic other than a man. (Some movies said to pass: "Die Hard," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Gone With the Wind.")

To pass GLAAD’s version of the test, a movie must have an LGBT character who is not "solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity" and who "must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect." It’s named for Vito Russo, the author of "The Celluloid Closet," considered a classic text in LGBT entertainment analysis.

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, a classic text in LGBT entertainment analysis? How many texts are there in that field? No, wait. I don't want to know. Second, GLAAD is calling for the fulfilment of a mind blowing paradox. At once, movies must prominently feature gay people, but they cannot be defined by their sexuality. Here, for once, I agree with GLAAD on something. Movie characters shouldn't be defined by their sexuality unless it's crucial to the plot. But if these gay characters, seemingly included to satisfy GLAAD's demands, aren't defined by their sexuality, what's the point in the first place? After all, there are lots of details that make up an average person's life, but not all of them would move the plot of a movie forward. If they ever produce my epic screenplay "Bill Zeiser: Action Hero" (tagline: he may be alphabetically last, but he always comes in first), they likely wouldn't include the fact that I am a Yankees fan, since it wouldn't be germane to the plot.

Should silver screen heroes declare their homosexuality for no reason other than GLAAD's insistence? Because that would make for some stilted and awkward scenes. "Are you feeling lucky, punk? By the way, the teachings of the social justice movement dictate that although it has no bearing on how many rounds are left in my .357 Magnum, I must inform you that I am an openly homosexual detective. Dirty Harry was a name I was given in San Francisco's leather subculture. Now please do not dwell on my sexuality."

One wonders if author J.K. Rowling's ridiculous decision to retroactively declare Harry Potter character Dumbledore gay would satisfy GLAAD's "Vito Russo Test." After all, he was central to the plot of the books, ergo the movie franchise, and his sexuality was so inessential that it wasn't even mentioned. The logical extreme of GLAAD's request is to push gay characters back into the ol' celluloid closet.

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