Here’s one way ‘Bros’ did make history at the box office last year—and it’s a bit of a bummer

Here’s one way ‘Bros’ did make history at the box office last year—and it’s a bit of a bummer

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Image Credit: ‘Bros,’ Universal Pictures

It was almost a year ago that Billy Eichner walked on stage of the MTV Video Music Awards to plug his movie Bros (and—for some reason—to introduce a performance from Panic! At The Disco).

That night, the comedian launched into a fiery speech about how his then-upcoming movie would be “making history as the first gay rom-com ever made by a major studio,” asking everyone watching to support Bros in theaters to show “homophobes like Clarence Thomas” that the public does, indeed, support gay love stories.

The monologue was pretty widely shared, dissected, and meme’d in the coming weeks, and would be pointed to by detractors as proof that Bros marketed itself all wrong: It was more focused on telling us it was “important” and “historical” than telling us it was a good movie (which it was!).

Whether or not you agree with the assessment, the unfortunate reality is that none of the promo from Eichner, the studio, etc… quite worked, because Bros wound up only grossing $14.8 million worldwide (off of a reported $22 million budget) and was considered a bomb.

With the lackluster response, Bros never quite became the “cause célèbre” for LGBTQ+ stories in media it was touted as. But a new study shows the film actually was quite groundbreaking in at least one area of representation—trans representation—which probably says more about the dismal state of inclusivity in Hollywood that it does Eichner’s film.

Every year, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative releases a report on representation in mainstream films, examining “inclusion factors of gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identity and characters with disabilities” in front of and behind the camera.

Drawing data from the top 100 highest-grossing movies of 2022, their latest survey found that 87 out of 4,169 (or 2.1%) “speaking or named” characters were LGBTQ+. As Variety reports, only 5 of those characters identified as transgender—four of which were in Bros.

(For the curious: The fifth character was in the Tom Hanks-starring feel-good dramedy, A Man Called Otto. Meanwhile, the sole nonbinary person to appear in the survey’s sample was a side character in Tár.)

One of the common criticisms lobbed at Bros last year was that it was too ambitious, that it tried to be too many things to too many people, and would have been more successful had it just honed in on its central gay romance. But, had it not made time for its trans characters played by the likes of Ts Madison and Eve Lindley, there would’ve been only one single trans character to be found throughout all 100 of 2022’s top grossing movies.

Surprising? Not necessarily. But it is pretty bleak, especially at a time when the rights of the trans community are once again under attack from conservative lawmakers.

It may be repeated to the point that it starts to lose meaning, but representation matters—it really does! When given the opportunity to make a big gay studio comedy, Eichner was very intentional in bringing the rest of the community along with him. You can argue about whether or not he did so successfully, but the findings of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative only prove how significant it was that Bros actually made space for trans folks.

While the annual report hasn’t observed a “meaningful increase” in LGBTQ+ representation since it began studying the metric in 2014, what’s mildly encouraging is that it has observed some “numerical shifts” of late. For example, in ’22, a total of nine films (out of 100 top-grossing films) featured an LGBTQ+ lead or co-lead. So… progress!?

Hopefully those numbers improve this year. And the next year. And the next.

Here’s a few reactions to the study’s findings as it relates to Bros:


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