GLAAD calls for LGBT characters in 20 percent of movies by 2021

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Romance “Call Me By Your Name” may have won a screenplay Oscar, and Disney’s family-friendly “Beauty and the Beast” had a gay character, but movies from Hollywood’s major studios last year had the lowest percentage of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual characters since 2012, according to a report released on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: James Ivory wears a shirt depicting actor Timothee Chalamet as he holds his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Call Me My Your Name" during the 90th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Gay and transgender media advocacy group GLAAD said in its annual Studio Responsibility Index that of the 109 releases by the seven largest movie studios in 2017, just 14, or 12.8 percent, included LGBTQ characters.

GLAAD called on Hollywood to have 20 percent of annual film releases include a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or gender fluid character by 2021, rising to 50 percent of output by 2024.

Box office hits like “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther” have smashed old Hollywood notions that movies that champion women and people of color do not have global appeal, GLAAD said.

“It is time for LGBTQ stories to be included in this conversation,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in the report.

GLAAD praised movies like tennis film “Battle of the Sexes,” Oscar best picture winner “The Shape of Water” and independent transgender tale “A Fantastic Woman” from Chile that won the best foreign language Oscar in March.

But it gave the thumbs-down to “Thor: Ragnarok” for deleting references to two characters who are bisexual or queer in the original Marvel comic book source material, criticized “Baywatch” for its “many jokes relying on gay panic for cheap laughs,” and said “Pitch Perfect 3” sidelined a lesbian character.

Despite the slide in LGBTQ characters in 2017, GLAAD said 2018 had already shown welcome progress, with movies like gay young adult film “Love, Simon” and the raunchy teen comedy “Blockers.”

The report expressed hope for upcoming films, such as musical “Mamma Mia 2,” where GLAAD said it would like to see Colin Firth’s gay character further explored, and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” where lead character Lisbeth Salander is bisexual in the original Stieg Larsson novel.

As for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the upcoming biopic about Queen singer Freddie Mercury who died in 1991 of AIDS complications, GLAAD said it hoped the film would “make a powerful impact by fully exploring his queer identity.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Matthew Lewis