Are there enough LGBT TV show and movie characters today?
With the rise of net and cable shows, do you think there are enough LGBT TV show and movie characters today as compared to the past few years?
Last October, GLAAD released its annual “Where We Are” TV report, which is their comprehensive review of LGBT primetime chararacters in the 2015-2016 TV season. Their conclusion? Though there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot of work to be done.
LGBT TV show and movie characters: Still lacking
According to the GLAAD report, 35 or four percent of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime scripted programming in the coming year were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
“The number of regular LGBT characters counted on cable increased from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58,” the report said.
Among those counted were LGBT characters on original series that premiered on the streaming content providers Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. The highest percentage of LGBT characters ever counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming was 4.4 percent in the 2012-13 season.
“Each of us lives at the intersection of many identities and it’s important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO & President of GLAAD.
“It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; those characters need to be portrayed with thought and care to accurately represent an often tokenized community,” Ellis said.
LGBT TV show and movie characters: Who’s missing
What’s more, even with the problems of LGBT representation in media, those who are bisexual and trans are getting the even shorter end of the stick.
As the report noted, “There are no transgender characters counted on primetime broadcast programming, while only three recurring trans characters were counted on cable (two percent). Streaming series boast the highest percentage of trans characters at 7 percent (4) with two notably being series leads. Of the seven trans characters counted, only one was a transgender man.”
Likewise, it said: “Bisexual representations rose on both broadcast and cable this year with a notable increase (from 10 to 18) in the number of bisexual men appearing on cable programs. Unfortunately, many of these characters still fall into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people.”
Ren Martinez of TheMarySue.com raised why the problem with the stereotypes matter.
“So far, our main cultural messages are perpetuated by the media we consume on a daily basis, and when we turn on our televisions to see bisexual men and women reduced to stereotypes and tropes, when bisexuality becomes interconnected with depravity and denial, those messages aren’t only being aimed at everyone else,” Martinez pointed out.
Commenting also on the report, Alana Jane Chase of TheYoungFolks.com wrote: “By continuing to support, consciously or unconsciously, the perpetuation of bisexual misrepresentation, the truth of bisexuality is undermined.”
On the other hand, Jim Halterman of MashableAsia talked to TV producer Greg Berlanti (of the ABC series Dirty Sexy Money) and the latter said: “I think there’s definitely been a tipping point.”
“Obviously whenever that happens, the floodgates kind of open. The more that television, especially network television, looks and feels like the conversations that are happening in America, the more important and better off that is,” Berlanti told Halterman.
LGBT TV show and movie characters: Problematic movies
LGBT movies suffer from a more serious problem.
In a 2015 study, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism reported that the 100 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014 had low LGBT visibility with a total of 19 lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters in major films over that period.
As Kyle Turner of Pacific Standard reported: “To be fair, the Annenberg scale depends on the very narrow selection of movies that actually get produced and distributed on a wide platform. Few explicitly LGBTQ films have enjoyed such distribution, and, when they do, they often falter among both critics and the queer community.”
Turner added that even in an atmosphere of widening acceptance, stories of LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups often still play a game of respectability politics—- that is, remaining unthreatening to a wide audience.
“Sad to say, this defensive mentality has turned high-profile projects into well-meaning but palatable films that too often sell out the communities that these films ostensibly want to represent. In other words, ‘gay’ films are very rarely being made with the gay community in mind,” Turner wrote.
So what are your thoughts on the prevalence– or shortage– of LGBT TV show and movie characters on the screen?