Still Unseen on Screen

A survey looking at the 100 top-grossing films in the USA last year finds hardly any bisexual people depicted. While the representation of gay and lesbian characters was atrociously low, there were six times as many gay men as bi men, and three times as many lesbians as bi women.

However the numbers are so small that an extra couple of characters either way would be enough to change those ratios.  Gay and lesbian representation had doubled compared to 2014 – up from 10 gay men to 19 and from 4 to 7 lesbian characters, while bi representation stayed at just five.

It may feel that bisexuality may be breaking through – comparatively – in media reporting, particularly of some young female actors who have been challenging biphobia in the media in the last couple of years, but it is not yet translating into bi roles on the big screen.  Complaints from anti-LGBT groups that the media is over-representing queer roles really don’t hold up to this simple level of scrutiny.

The report notes that:

“Only 32 speaking or named characters were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender across the sample of 100 top films of 2015.

“This is an increase of 13 portrayals from our 2014 report. Just one transgender character appeared sample‐wide, as well as 19 gay men, 7 lesbians, and 5 bisexuals (3 males, 2 females)”


If this little infographic showed all the actors involved there would be another 4,000 straight roles

Those 32 are out of a sample of 4,370 characters.

The research paper from the private research institution the University of South California (USC) also notes that in named roles there are more than twice as many men in blockbuster films as women, while nearly half of the films did not have any speaking characters depicted with a disability.  None of the disabled characters shown were LGBT. Not surprisingly given all those figures, the mix of race and ethnicity was skewed too – and that had not improved across the eight years this annual survey had been conducted.

It may reflect an industrial bias: for example, over 90% of directors, eight out of nine writers and two out of nine of the film producers in that top 100 are male.


Read the full paper here.