GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index Reveals Lack of LGBT Visibility
BY Advocate.com Editors
July 22 2014 6:00 AM ET
Above: Jon Spinogatti (on sofa) in The Wolf of Wall Street
2013 Rating: Failing
Out of the nine films released by Paramount Pictures in 2013, only two included LGBT characters. However, both of these films, Pain & Gain and The Wolf of Wall Street, failed the Vito Russo Test. The characters were not significant to the stories, and both were evocative of harmful stereotypes and were punished with violence for their behavior.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, whose oeurvre often focuses on masculinity and modern crime, The Wolf of Wall Street is a blockbuster adaptation of the memoir of Jordan Belfort, a former stockbroker who was convicted of fraud for his shady Wall Street wheelings and dealings. Garnering four Oscar nominations, the film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort and Jonah Hill as his friend and business associate Donnie Azoff, paints a glamorized portrait of Belfort’s rise to success through the founding of his brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. Along the way, he and his predominantly heterosexual male cohorts throw excessive parties that include drug and alcohol use, prostitution, and at least one instance of “dwarf-tossing,” where little people wearing Velcro padding are hurtled against the wall for sport. The tables turn on Belfort in one particularly problematic scene, in which his fiancée returns to his apartment to discover that their butler has thrown an orgy with other men. Subsequently, the man is beaten by Belfort’s cronies and then arrested on a trumped-up charge of theft. The scene involving this gay character is less than three minutes long and is not essential to the narrative. As GLAAD notes, the unneeded violence in a film that already runs at a bloated three hours is just “one more example of the main characters’ outrageous behavior the audience is invited to take delight in watching.”
Pain & Gain, another testosterone-drenched feature, is directed by Michael Bay and suffers from the same problem as The Wolf of Wall Street in its inclusion of a nonessential gay character whose behavior is punished with violence. Based on a book by reporter Pete Collins, who covered crimes committed by a gang of bodybuilders for the Miami New Times, the film includes a minor scene that is not based on real-life events: the beating of an elderly priest after he makes advances to one of the leads, Paul, who is played by Dwayne Johnson. Much as in Wall Street, the scene holds no purpose for the plot other than to evoke a harmful stereotype, which is used to justify the use of violence as “gay panic defense.”
In light of these portrayals, GLAAD has given Paramount Pictures a failing rating and advised the company to live up to the standards of the LGBT-themed and -inclusive films that it has produced in the past, including Clueless, The Talented Mister Ripley, Election, and The Hours. The guidelines it offers are as follows: “Don’t simply include LGBT characters in films aimed at an adults-only audience. Don’t exclusively define these characters by inappropriate or aggressive sexual behavior within moments of their appearing onscreen. And don’t follow up that behavior with depictions of them being violently attacked before inviting the audience to forget they ever existed. Paramount can and must do better.”
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