ByCiara Pitts, writer at
Twitter: @CiaraNPitts
Ciara Pitts

While indie films are moving the needle forward with LGBTQ representation, major studio films continue to lag behind. Earlier this year, GLAAD released its annual Studio Responsibility Index, which reflected on movies of 2016. Sadly, it showed that headway isn’t being made on queer visibility, and many of this year’s films have barely improved.

But through all the disappointments, spy thriller Atomic Blonde was a major step forward in mainstream cinema. Its romance between Lorraine Broughton and Delphine Lasalle was depicted beautifully, and added warmth to the movie’s cold tone. Although the movie gave its same-sex relationship depth, it was completely left out of GLAAD’s recent analysis of the past summer box office. They mentioned that characters are nearly invisible in major films — and that's correct — but Atomic's natural treatment of queerness shouldn't be excluded.

Atomic Blonde Passes The Vito Russo Test

Much like the Bechdel Test, which examines the portrayals of female characters, GLAAD has created the Vito Russo Test for depictions of LGBT characters. A film must include the following criteria in order to pass — let's look at how did:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.

Atomic Blonde contains two characters who are part of the LGBT spectrum. Before it hit theaters, Lorraine's canon bisexuality was openly discussed by Charlize Theron. Though the word "bisexual" was never explicitly stated in the movie, Lorraine's attraction to both men and women was evident: Her former relationship with a man was shown in a flashback, and her romance with Delphine was central to the narrative. As for Delphine, her true sexuality was never revealed, but her attraction to Lorraine obviously makes her queer.

  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. they are comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight/non-transgender characters from one another).

Lorraine and Delphine are both three-dimensional characters, and were never defined by their sexuality or gender. Lorraine is an elite agent who exhibits confidence and determination. She has an icy exterior as well, but that only adds to her intrigue. Delphine is also a spy, but rather inexperienced at the job. In contrast to Lorraine, she's approachable, eager and comfortable when it comes to trusting others.

  • The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect, meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character must matter.

Since Lorraine is the lead character, her removal would leave a crucial impact. Delphine was more than just a love interest; she was the movie's most genuine character overall, and her openness inspired Lorraine to be more human. With that said, Delphine's death was not only significant to Lorraine's character, but to the entire movie.

[Credit: Focus Features]
[Credit: Focus Features]

Clearly, Atomic hit the mark on queer visibility. The only downside was Delphine's death, but for many viewers, the movie's development of queer characters (which matters most, really) and their relationship outweighs the use of an unfortunately overdone trope. Atomic easily passed GLAAD's test, so why was it nonexistent on their summer report?

Is There A Real Reason Why Atomic Blonde Was Absent From GLAAD's Analysis?

While this could've been a mistake, there might be a reason why Atomic was nowhere to be found on GLAAD's recent analysis. Also, they never gave the film any exposure, something they typically do for queer-inclusive movies. It could come from the fact that it used the "Bury Your Gays" trope. Some would argue that Atomic didn't do its queer characters justice, even falsely accusing it of queerbaiting. But when examining LGBT themes in movies, bias needs to be put aside.

Whether you enjoyed Atomic or not, there's no denying that it included dynamic, well-developed queer characters, which rarely occurs in major cinema. Many queer women felt visible after walking out of the action flick's theater, and that's important. In the end, positive visibility is what we're aiming for when advocating for representation, and Atomic achieved that.

In the near future, GLAAD will release a roundup on every 2017 movie, like they did for the previous year, examining the use of LGBT representation (or lack thereof). Their reports are an excellent gauge of diversity in media, but moving forward, a movie like Atomic Blonde needs to be looked at objectively.

Atomic Blonde arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on November 14, with a digital release on October 24.

Do you think Atomic Blonde was a good example of LGBT visibility? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

(Source: GLAAD)


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