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GLAAD Launches Push for More LGBT Characters in Film

GLAAD is pushing the major studios to include more gay characters following the release of its study that found there's a dearth of LGBT roles in major features.

Hollywood has long been criticized for its portrayal—or lack thereof—of the gay community. While TV has begun featuring LGBT characters in prominent roles (think series such as ABC's "Modern Family" and "Grey's Anatomy”), the parts in features have been few and primarily supporting roles.

As part of its first Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), which mapped the quantity, quality, and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in films released by six major studios in 2012, the gay-rights group found that out of 101 releases, only 14 of them included LGBT characters. And the vast majority of these characters were no more than cameos or minor roles.

Of the features released by the Big Six—20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, the Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers—that included an LGBT character, more than half of those featured gay male characters, a third featured lesbian characters, and roughly 1-in-10 contained bisexual characters.

"As a major influence in American culture and one of our nation's largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change," Wilson Cruz, an actor and spokesman for GLAAD, said in a statement. "Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios’ part. Whether it's an action hero or a supporting character, moviegoers should be able to see LGBT people as integral players in the stories told by leading Hollywood studios."

As part of a list of recommendations for the studios on ways they can increase character diversity, GLAAD released what it calls the "Vito Russo Test," a set of criteria used for analyzing how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work. The group, which named the test for its co-founder Vito Russo, said it hopes to set a similar standard as the "Bechdel Test," which ranks how female characters appear in film.

Meanwhile, GLAAD is gathering signatures for "an open letter to Hollywood filmmakers" that seeks more depictions of "LGBT characters as people worthy of dignity and respect."

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