I have seen countless articles of different ways different movie studios could add LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) characters to different movies, including popular superhero movies like The Avengers or Justice League. These articles have received several mixed responses, some agreeing with the writer, some saying that different characters should be added instead, and some others that are not worth mentioning.
Though these other articles were all done amazingly well and brought forward many good points, they did not go to in depth as to why we need more LGBTQ characters in movies, TV and other sources of media. No, it is not to "displease God," nor is it to "introduce filth into the eyes of our children." Believe it or not, it is not even to "prove a point" or "cram homosexuality down our throats."
The actual reason why we need more LGBTQ characters in popular film is to help those who are gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. become more open with themselves and with others about their orientation.
There are thousands, if not millions, of people out there in different countries across the world who are gay that are too afraid to reveal the truth about themselves. Many of these people hide it as a secret for many years and some end up getting married to someone they aren't attracted to because they are too afraid to tell them the truth. There are even others that are so afraid of revealing the truth about themselves that they end their lives instead of dealing with the "awful" truth.
Society has started to change to be more accepting of LGBTQ people, including adding new laws to allow same sex marriages in countless countries across the world. Yet, there are still thousands out there who are still 'stuck in the closet.' Though society says it's okay to be gay, there are many out there who are not yet ready to embrace it because they would feel like the only ones who are gay when everyone else is straight. Many people who are still in the closet are not willing to come out yet because they don't know anyone else who is gay and know very few (if any) examples of other people coming out.
Television has started to embrace the LGBTQ community with shows like Glee, Modern Family and Orange is the New Black. However, those are not as popular in our culture as film is. There are very few popular films with gay characters, and even fewer with gay characters that have more than just a minor role. Why does Hollywood fear this change? Because no one has really done it yet. In order for the LGBTQ to reach film, it all has to start with some movie studio taking a "big" risk.
Adding gay characters to popular franchises
Adding LGBTQ characters to movie franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Cinematic Universe and other big franchises would be able to serve as an example and an inspiration for those who are still in the closet.
Right now, when secretly LGBTQ people look at movies like The Avengers, they see a bunch of men attracted to women and a bunch of women attracted to men. But, if Marvel decides to add a gay character to the movies (as producer Kevin Feige has confirmed will occur within the next decade), then those who are hiding will be able to see a new role model in popular culture. Adding a gay couple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Hulking and Wiccan will give those who are hiding another role model to look up to. Besides, Marvel loves taking risks. Did you ever notice the talking raccoon and tree in Guardians of the Galaxy?
Are LGBTQ characters in shows enough?
Shows like Glee and Modern Family may be popular, but they are also "cult" shows, meaning they are popular only with particular audiences. There are very few popular shows right now with gay characters. Television does not aspire to go as far as films do. They do not reach nearly as many people. With television, everyone has their own exclusive preference to specific shows. With movies, everyone does have a preference, but people are more likely to watch more varieties of movies since they do not require as much commitment as a TV series.
Adding a gay character to movies instead of just TV shows would show more of a cultural acceptance of gay people, especially to those in hiding.
Current examples of LGBTQ characters in popular film
Right now, the only times we normally see gay characters in popular film are as jokes in comedies. They are made fun of and seen as an unrealistic characters due to this one trait. That certainly will not help anyone come out of the closet anytime soon. We need more examples of gay characters other than people like Leslie Chow from The Hangover and Bruno in Bruno.
The other examples of gay characters in film are often not seen because those films are not as popular. In our society right now, if there is a serious gay character in a movie, it is usually in a drama. Unfortunately, dramas are not as popular with movie-goers and these films are often released straight to DVD or digitally. This limits the marketing of the film and leaves many of these inspirational characters unseen by those who need to see them for their own personal inspiration.
Also, when it is a drama, the entire plot of the movie usually surrounds the gay character accepting him or herself, which is important. However, it shows homosexuality as some abnormal change to a person. Adding gay characters to films that are about more than just coming out will make homosexuality seem more like a cultural norm to those who want to still be normal after coming out.
Okay, counterargument time:
Would homosexuality be acceptable to put in a film?
This is one of those questions I see all over social media (just not quite worded that softly). People often ask why anyone would dare to put that "filth" in a movie? Well, the answer to that question is clear...
...LGBTQ people are a very real thing. If these movies are supposedly taking place in our world, then why not have it take place in our world instead of some imaginary world where homosexuality is non-existent?
Homosexuality exists. End of story. If people are making movies about dinosaurs coming back, superheroes shrinking down to talk to ants and even a movie about a man falling in love with his cell phone, why is it so absurd to add characters who are gay? Adding them will only expand the horizons of the film and add diversity to the characters.
"But what about the children?"
This is another one of those commonly asked questions about adding gay characters to popular film. Many believe children should be sheltered from sexuality at a young age, which is very true. However, that doesn't keep them from seeing regular couples fall in love in other movies, does it? Why can't a man and a man fall in love in a movie too?
I'm not saying that we need to put a gay couple in Dora the Explorer, but we should not limit other movies, especially PG-13 movies which aren't for kids in the first place, just because a child might see it. It is up to the parent to raise their kid the way they feel they should be raised. This includes choosing what movies they do or do not watch instead of blaming movie studios for "corrupting" their kids.
Not only will the addition of gay characters to popular movies expand the horizons of these films, but it will help thousands of people in the closet across the world begin to accept themselves once they see they are not alone and that being gay can be a very normal thing. It will stop people from seeing being straight as the only option in order to be accepted by society. And maybe, just maybe, it will show the less accepting people out there that being gay is finally acceptable in our society.