Gay characters are now portrayed in the Emma Watson live action hit, “Power Rangers” and perhaps an upcoming “Harry Potter” extension
It’s never been more lucrative to come out of the closet.
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” made $350 million at the global box office over the weekend, making it the biggest opening of the year thus far. The Emma Watson-helmed live action film succeeded in luring moviegoers despite boycott threats issued by social conservatives who were angered that the movie cast a gay character in a supporting role.
The movie is the most prominent example of Hollywood showcasing characters from the LGBTQ community. The upcoming “Power Rangers” will be the first superhero motion picture with a lesbian character and features a scene in which viewers discover the sexual orientation of Becky G’s Yellow Ranger. The titular hero in Marvel’s “Deadpool” identifies as pansexual, meaning that he can be romantically attracted to anybody, while JK Rowling has mused that an upcoming sequel of the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise could show an openly gay Albus Dumbledore, the mentor of Harry Potter.
.@anakocovic21 Maybe because gay people just look like… people?
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 24, 2015
The shift is happening as moviegoers are increasingly exposed to diverse lifestyles and demanding to see themselves represented in mass media. A Pew survey last year found that 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 35% in 2001. Younger Americans are also more comfortable with gender fluidity: Pew found that more than 2/3s of young adults supported allowing transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
“We live in an increasingly multiracial society with diverse family units and people mobilizing for marriage equality,” says a representative for SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union. “Businesses are looking at the changing dynamics and desires of their customers.”
One question is whether this will make it easier for LGBTQ actors to come out of the closet. “If performers believe that who they are can give them an opportunity to compete for a job in a different way, they should absolutely use it to their advantage,” says the rep. “But the bottom line for actors is not who you are, but what you can play.”
If anything, the backlash probably helped “Beauty and the Beast.” “There are gay people in everyday life we know and love,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “It might actually have motivated some people who like the message the film carried and said ‘I care and vote with my dollars.’”
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