Group finds movies lag behind TV in LGBT roles

Animated characters, from left, Courtney Babcock (voiced by Anna Kendrick) Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi) and Mitch (voiced by Casey Affleck) in a scene from "ParaNorman." AP Photo/Focus Features

We may be seeing more prominent gay and lesbian characters on TV shows, but the movie industry lags well behind the small screen, a U.S. advocacy group reports.

In its first study of LGBT roles in major studio releases, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation found that compared with TV, where there has been a significant shift over the past decade, "Major studios appear reluctant to include LGBT characters in significant roles or franchises."

In its report released Wednesday, GLAAD found that of the 101 releases from Hollywood's six major studios in 2012, just 14 included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Most were no more than cameos or minor roles, it said -- and none of the films tracked had transgender characters.

"Until LGBT characters appear more regularly in these studio films, there will be the appearance of bias," said Wilson Cruz, GLAAD's national spokesperson, in an interview. He added that his organization will be meeting with studio executives to discuss the findings.

There were some bright spots in 2012, and some more ambiguous ones, the group said. For example, "Skyfall," the hugely successful installment of the James Bond franchise, featured a main villain, played by Javier Bardem, who was apparently bisexual.

"It was great to see an LGBT character in such a significant role," said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media at GLAAD, also in an interview. "But unfortunately the character was also devious, psychotic, and untrustworthy -- it fell into that trap."

The report -- called the 2013 Studio Responsibility Index -- rates each of the six studios according to the number of LGBT-inclusive films they released. Faring worst: 20th Century Fox and Disney, which each receive "failing" grades; the other four -- Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. -- receive grades of "adequate."

Asked in advance Tuesday afternoon about the report, the studios had no immediate comment.

One of the best examples of an LGBT-inclusive film in 2012, according to GLAAD, was an animated family film: "ParaNorman," about a misunderstood boy who can communicate with the ghosts of dead people.

In the film, which came from the studio LAIKA, Norman's cheerleader sister asks the hunky football hero Mitch for a movie date. He casually makes a reference to his boyfriend.

The film's writer and co-director, Chris Butler, said he was not optimistic that there would be an inevitable wave of more onscreen LGBT characters as time goes on and society changes, as on TV.

"It's a mistake to assume it's inevitable," he said. "The only way to make change is to do something about it. It takes hard work."

Kane, at GLAAD, said the new report would help reinforce its longtime claims that Hollywood studios need to do more.

"Over the years we have met with studios, and it's always a point we make," Kane said. "Now, we have the numbers to take to them."

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