This New Study Proves That Hollywood Does Not Get Intersectionality

Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
By now, the word diversity has been thrown around so much while discussing the entertainment industry that I’m tired of hearing it. Much of the coverage has focused exclusively on racial and gender inclusion and equality. Inclusion rider is now a buzzword that people are clinging to in hopes that more women and people of colour get a fair chance in career-changing projects. Times Up and #MeToo are calling out men who take advantage of their women peers in the industry. #OscarsSoWhite is not dead, no matter how many people say otherwise. Wage parity and stereotypes dominate the conversation. But the same attention has not been given to LGBTQ+ representation in the movie industry. Last year, the number of LGBTQ+ characters in major studios' 2017 films decreased, according to the latest study from GLAAD.
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GLAAD looked at the 109 film offerings from Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, and Walt Disney Studios in 2017, and deduced that only 14 — or 12.8% — of them included characters that were LGBTQ+. These include notable characters like Georgina (Betty Gabriel) in Get Out, lovers Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) in Rough Night, and of course, Beauty & The Beast’s LeFou (Josh Gad). This is a decrease of 5.6% points from last year. There wasn’t a single transgender character in any of the films to come out of these movie houses last year. And none of the LGBTQ+ characters in these films were Asian. And within the inclusive films, men were still disproportionately represented. Sixty-four percent of the inclusive films included gay men, 36% included lesbian women, and 14% included bisexual individuals.
Apparently Hollywood — at least the most visible and powerful parts of it, as this study didn't take independent films into account — is really far away from embracing intersectionality, the idea that different systems of power and oppression can and need to be addressed at the same time. Time's Up was started in the wake of #MeToo. And it felt like the "next thing" for the Oscars to focus on after the award show was repeatedly called out for failing to represent people of colour. With women’s issues at the forefront, it seemed as though the Academy Awards, presented by the institution responsible for defining excellence in film, had finally dealt with their race issues. They did not. Instead of envisioning a world that comes together thanks to a chorus of different voices, the mainstream film industry is playing whack-a-mole on social issues and identities.
The silver lining is that television continues to be the designated medium for including marginalised voices and experiences. Contrary to what’s happening in the exclusive film industry, I love that I have to really rack my brain to think of a major network series that doesn’t have at least one LGBTQ+ character. With the time and space to dive deeper into character development, TV has the advantage of exploring the full spectrum of diversity. The small screen also appears to be benefitting from networks’ decision to welcome showrunners and creators from all kinds of backgrounds. Producers like Ryan Murphy on FX (and now Netflix as well) and Lee Daniels on FOX are openly gay and consistently put LGBTQ+ characters at the forefront of their stories. Shonda Rhimes, who is transitioning her episodic empire from ABC to Netflix, does the same. Their characters are diverse in gender, race, and sexuality, at the same damn time, proving that an intersectional approach to inclusion takes care, not rocket science.
The film industry currently sits atop the hierarchy in the entertainment industry, supposedly representing excellence in acting and filmmaking. Unfortunately, like many a house on the proverbial hill, the movie industry prioritises the privileged, and the journey towards inclusion involves taming more than one beast at a time. True diversity is definitely a tall order, but if Hollywood can make fucking a fish sexy and powerful, I think they can handle it.
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