LGBTQ Representation In Mainstream Films
The appeal of filmmaking and cinema is the power to represent and be represented. Such are the best stories — those in which the characters connect with their audience. However, we often overlook a lot of people in film production. Or we do not represent them as well as we should.
Gay and lesbian people have been underrepresented in mainstream media for a long while. But, they seem to have a bit better compared to the other LGBTQ subgroups.
LGBTQ means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer — basically, anyone who is not straight. While queer cinema exists, it is often under the radar. Mainstream media has a wider reach.
However, the levels of representation have been improving in recent years. But even with flicks such as “Orange Is the New Black” or “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and the romantic comedy series “Love, Victor” it is not yet close to enough.
Is There Enough LGBTQ Representations in Movies?
Being straight, we have always had representation in mainstream media. So much so that we never noticed the lack of it because there wasn’t any. That should be the goal when representing the LGBTQ population, as naive as it sounds. There should be so much representation that an article like this would have no purpose.
Therefore, the short answer is — no, there is not enough LGBTQ representation in cinema. While many award-winning movies explore the sexual attraction between gay men (“Call Me By Your Name”), and while there are series based on real-life events (“Orange Is The New Black”), there needs to be more.
Although there has been an enormous increase in LGTBQ movies, they are nowhere near as popular as their heterosexual counterparts. The thing is that many mainstream LGBTQ films are love or coming out stories. Those are important, but there is more to a character than their sexuality, or at least there should be.
If you were to think about heterosexual characters in movies, you would have a long list of different types, from action heroes to nerds, from doctors to parents, etc. The list is endless. When you think of LGBTQ characters, the list is shorter.
Unless the story centers around them, they are like visual effects a lot of the time. We have seen many coming-out tales, and while those are important, there are way more stories to tell.
How Has LGBTQ Representation Changed Over the Years in the Film Industry
The film is slowly heading there. During the beginning phrases of cinema, there was no mainstream queer representation. Then it was introduced into underground flicks, and slowly into the mainstream from the first man on man kiss in “That ’70s Show”. Now, we have a bunch of series and movies that feature LGBTQ themes.
For example, “Modern Family” is a popular show where two leads are in a same-sex marriage. That could never have happened in the early days of Hollywood.
There are more stories about the struggles of coming out or dealing with the stigma that comes with being queer. More characters are being introduced as LGBTQ, and trans ones are heading into the mainstream.
What does it really mean to be Queer? Find out here.
Representation is heading in the right direction, but it will be a slow process. As we have previously mentioned, the ultimate goal, no matter how naive and impossible it may sound, is total inclusion of people of all sexual and gender orientation. Although that seems like a thing of the distant future, we must keep believing in our dreams and fighting to make them come true.
What Is Keeping Filmmakers From Producing Movies That Would Completely Represent the LGBTQ Community?
The United States boasts a gigantic film industry that needs to make money. For that to happen, films need to go worldwide to places like China and the Middle East.
However, movies have to be approved by all government censors worldwide, and that is where same-sex couples or LGBTQ characters may become an issue.
Russia, for example, has passed anti-gay laws a few years back. And a few other countries have done the same. Therefore, we can see that LGBTQ movies are not marketable worldwide, limiting the chance of gaining a profit for mainstream media. Some studios have even cut out the LGBTQ parts without hurting the story.
Another aspect is the content. While all content can be interesting, sometimes, you just want something else, something more representative. Like a lead character being trans or something else. That is why the Vito Russo Test is essential. It is a way to hold writers to a checklist, but instead of making stereotypes, it helps make characters, well, characters with dimensions.
To pass the test, the story must have an LGBTQ character. But, these characters must not be defined by their gender identity or sexuality — they must be needed for the story to make sense. That does not necessarily mean that they are the main lead, though.
LGBTQ characters in mainstream media are often in the background, stereotypical, put in as gags, which makes them under-developed. Like, their role is their sexuality, and that is all.
What Are the Things That Need to Be Changed to Ensure More LGBTQ Inclusions in the Industry?
One of the things that desperately need to change (maybe in the future) is catering to countries that make it challenging or impossible to show LGBTQ content.
Also, the studios must follow the Vito Russo Test as a guideline of what traps to avoid. While those should be obvious, what we see on the big screen tells a different story. Many filmmakers try to follow the Bechdel Test, where two women do not talk about men, and women in movies have become more human because of it. Let’s do the same with the Vito Russo Test.
However, the change also worked because more women had a say in making films. That is another way to increase LGBTQ representation to the point that we do not notice its lack — include more talented, hard-working LGBTQ members behind the camera. Make them work, not just stand there to fill a status quo.
Also, studios should produce content never seen before, eventually stepping away from romance, coming out stories or the harsh reality of sexuality.
Cinema is going in the right direction. Mainstream media (notably TV series) are adding more and more LGBTQ characters slowly but surely. But, we have a long way to go. Filmmakers should aim for complete representation of the entire population (LGBTQ, African-American, Asian-American, etc.).
Everyone deserves a chance, and we should strive to represent all people in our media. We are not just talking about movies. That applies to TV shows, commercials, books, games — you name it. Cinema is just the first step, and, hopefully, it will pave the road for all types of entertainment to become more inclusive and diverse.