Guess what? The Hangover Part III was one of the most LGBT-inclusive major films of 2013—as ranked by the watchdogs at GLAAD, no less!
No, the Bradley Cooper vehicle wasn't secretly, subversively queer. It's just one of a handful of movies in a very shallow pool. For its second annual Studio Responsibility Index, out now, GLAAD examined all of the films released in the preceding year by the major American studios (20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers) to evaluate their LGBT inclusiveness. The SRI tallied the total number releases from these companies featuring at least one LGBT character—which is a paltry 17 out of 102, and fewer than half of those passed GLAAD's Vito Russo Test. Inspired by the Bechdel Test, which examines the roles of women in films, the VRT requires films to meet all of the following criteria:
1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).
3. The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.
The seven (again, out of 102) that made that cut:
Battle of the Year (Sony Columbia Pictures)
Broken City (20th Century Fox)
The Hangover Part III (Warner Brothers)
Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Sony Columbia Pictures)
Tyler Perry Presents Peeples (Lionsgate)
Riddick (Universal Pictures)
Even among these titles, negative stereotypes and homophobic content abound. The GLAAD report notes that the Hangover series (including the latest installment) consistently plays LGBT characters for laughs, and a queer woman in Riddick is objectified and treated with general misogyny.
Of the studios evaluated, only Sony Columbia Pictures scored a "Good" ranking; Lionsgate, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios earned an "Adequate," and the rest got a "Failing" grade. No company has garnered an "Excellent" in the two years of the SRI.
There are, of course, plenty of indie studios releasing inclusive films, and subsidiaries of the big seven (Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions) weren't considered in GLAAD's numbers because films released under those imprints rarely make a large impact outside of select markets. For large swaths of America, the multiplex is the only option—and LGBT stories just aren't being told in that arena. Considering all of the cultural and political advances LGBT people have made in recent decades, GLAAD's report is disheartening to say the least.
As a palette cleanser, here's the aforementioned Mr. Cooper gaying it up in the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer (a film that more than aces the Vito Russo Test, by the way).
Click here to read GLAAD's Studio Responsibility Index report.