No one in the world is worse than Hollywood when it comes to inclusion and equality. The movie and TV world is so one-sidedly cis/straight that it has been taking an abundance of backlash. Aside from the regular privileged folks, however, there are a few stray LGBT+ soldiers able to make their way onto the screens. These roles rarely do the LGBT+ community justice, but once in a blue moon there will be a flawless gay or transgender character that comes along and leaves us wanting more.
The list of wrongdoings toward the LGBT+ community via Hollywood could extend unendingly, so listed here will be some of the main problems with the portrayals.
The biggest and most frustrating injustice in Hollywood is inarguably when they cast non-LGBT actors and actresses for LGBT parts. It’s not as if there’s a lack of gay actors on the waiting list, so why cast someone who cannot personally connect with the character? After Ellen Page—who starred in major motion pictures such as Juno and Inception—came out as gay, with all the support came attacks on her being cast into straight roles. In an interview with The Guardian, she stated, “There’s still that double standard. I look at all the things I’ve done in movies: I’ve drugged a guy, tortured someone, become a roller-derby star overnight. But now that I’m gay, I can’t play a straight person?” Ellen, as many others do, despises the hard fact that a straight person can play a non-straight role with no questions asked, but never vise versa.
Secondly, it seems as though Hollywood has the idea that LGBT+ people are continuously plagued with tragedy. There is a very limited amount of cutesy, romantic LGBT+ movies floating around—compare that to the seemingly endless amount of Nicholas Sparks movies that have been produced. Someone always seems to cheat in a lesbian couple, breaking them apart. A boy in a gay couple may have to deal with an unaccepting or abusive parent. A transgender character is usually addicted to drugs or, at the least, hyper sexualized. These are all very real, very worrying real-life scenarios that should not have their severity downplayed, but if cis/straight characters are allowed to live happily ever after all the time, why is the LGBT+ community never given that luxury?
The third and most common misrepresentation is stereotyping. The amount of times there has been a “gay best friend” in a movie played by a white male with a high voice and feminine features is uncountable. Add in the fact that they’re gossiping or constantly talking about fashion and it makes it completely unbearable. There’s nothing at all wrong with any of these attributes, but portraying every single gay person in the same way is the definition of stereotypical. The LGBT+ community is a diverse one, with people coming from all different races, cultures, religions, economic classes, and levels of education. It would be nice to have this represented more often in Hollywood.
There are many examples of these Hollywood misrepresentations. For instance, let’s take Jared Leto’s portrayal of transgender woman, Rayon, from the Oscar-nominated movie Dallas Buyers Club. Rayon is a combination of every misrepresentation described above. She is a sad, clothes-obsessed, hyper sexualized, drug-addicted prostitute. The other characters are constantly making jokes at her expense throughout the entirety of the movie, such as when one man points a gun at her crotch, offering to “give her the sex change she’s been wanting.” As Time Magazine put it, “There are no stereotypes about transgender women that Leto’s concoction does not tap.”
In addition, we can look at couples such as Chad and Patrick from Season 1 of American Horror Story, or even Kurt and Blaine from Glee. Chad and Patrick are interior designers who are found to have weird kinks and, of course, face the drama of someone cheating. As for Kurt and Blaine, they were stereotyped as an alpha-beta relationship with Kurt being the ultra-feminine, sassy boyfriend. These portrayals of gay relationships are so overused that it’s becoming exasperatingly hard to put up with.
The “rights” of representation of the LGBT+ community in Hollywood are basically anything that contradicts the wrongs. It is truly a breath of fresh air when an LGBT+ character is portrayed as happy, smart, and successful. It’s also nice to see these characters settle into a healthy monogamous relationship. A huge plus is when the LGBT+ character’s gender or sexuality is not made into a big deal. When the issue is treated as a simple character trait rather than a fad to raise the show’s viewership, it is truly accurate acting. The main goal is to get to a point where an LGBT+ character’s presence in a show is seen as completely regular and nothing to get worked up over.
Examples of representation done right include, of course, the bisexual goddess Annalise from How to Get Away with Murder. She is a woman of color whose bisexuality isn’t erased or over-exaggerated. The couple of Connor and Oliver in the show is also a great portrayal of a gay relationship, as Connor is very smart and they work through any flaws in their relationship to create a happy one. Furthermore, another great example of a gay character is Hank from the USA sitcom Sirens. Hank is a badass, gay person of color who is in no way stereotypical. Although he stars in a comedy, no hateful comments are made toward him for the sake of laughs.
All in all, although Hollywood is incredibly flawed when it comes to representation of the LGBT+ community, progress is being made, and that’s all we can truly ask for.