LGBTQ-inclusive entertainment promotes acceptance and helps brands, study finds

Movies, television shows and ads can help change attitudes about and erase prejudices toward LGBTQ people, a study by GLAAD and Procter & Gamble found.
Dyllon Burnside as Ricky, Billy Porter as Pray Tell in Pose.
Dyllon Burnside as Ricky, Billy Porter as Pray Tell in Pose.Michael Parmelee / FX
By Variety

LOS ANGELES - Movies, television shows and ads can help change attitudes about and erase prejudices towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

That's the big takeaway from a new study conducted by advocacy group GLAAD and Procter & Gamble, the world's largest advertiser. It found that 48 percent of non-LGBTQ people became more accepting of gay and lesbian people over the past few years because of their representation in media, significantly higher than reported for those who did not see LGBTQ people in the media. Seventy six percent said they were comfortable seeing LGBTQ characters in films like "Love, Simon" and shows like "Pose."

Moreover, 80 percent of those surveyed said they had become more supportive of equal rights for LGBTQ people after being exposed to them on television or at the movies, while only 70 percent of those not exposed to LGBTQ people in the media felt this way. The survey was conducted online between Nov. 20 to Dec. 3, 2019, and polled more than 2,000 non-LGBTQ American adults.

"The findings of this study send a strong message to brands and media outlets that including LGBTQ people in ads, films, and TV is good for business and good for the world," said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, when media consumption is up and when media outlets serve as lifelines for LGBTQ people in isolation, companies should recognize that now is the right time to grow the quality and quantity of LGBTQ people in advertising."

The poll also found that 45 percent of respondents who had been exposed to LGBTQ people in the media say they are more accepting of bisexual people over the past few years, while 41 percent are more accepting of nonbinary people. Some 72 percent of respondents were more likely to be comfortable learning that a family member is LGBTQ compared to the 66 percent of respondents who had not been exposed. That shift in attitudes comes as more people report having LGBTQ people in their social circles. Eighty six percent of non-LGBTQ people say that they know someone who is LGBTQ.

That move towards broader acceptance is manifested in other ways. Seventy nine percent of respondents who had been exposed to LGBTQ people in the media are comfortable having a new LGBTQ family with children move into their neighborhood, while roughly 70 percent of respondents are comfortable starting a conversation with a person whose gender is unclear, and 81 percent are comfortable chatting with a person whose sexual orientation is different than their own.

Non-LGBTQ people have been far more exposed to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people on film and television than in advertising. Within the past three months, 70 percent were exposed to members of the LGBTQ community in movies and on the small screen, whereas 52 percent saw LGBTQ people in advertisements.

The Hallmark Channel may have made waves last year for pulling TV ads featuring same sex couples (it later re-instated them under public pressure). Despite the controversy, people looked favorably upon companies who included LGBTQ people in their advertisements. Some 86% of respondents believe it reflects the company's support of LGBTQ rights, while 85 percent of respondents believe it illustrates the company's commitment to offering products to all types of customers. Some 75 percent of people were comfortable with ads that showed LGBTQ people and 70 percent were comfortable with seeing commercials with LGBTQ families with children.

On a conference call with media on Wednesday, Ellis said that the results should embolden marketers and companies to highlight LGBTQ consumers.

"This is a permission slip for brands to go out and embrace the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

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Reuters contributed.