GLAAD cites record-high LGBTQ representation in its annual report on television diversity, but the media advocacy group says that television "failed queer women" this year, killing off a staggering number of lesbian and bisexual female characters.
Cable, perhaps not surprisingly, featured more LGBTQ characters than broadcast did this season, with 142 total (regular and recurring) on shows including MTV's Loosely Exactly Nicole, Greenleaf on OWN, Pretty Little Liars and the now-canceled Roadies on Showtime. The report revealed similar numbers for streaming platforms, with 71% of their 65 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters being counted as white.
The increase in the number of black characters on TV can be attributed to a range of successful shows with multiple black cast members such as Empire and Black-ish, as well as a backlash from the #OscarSoWhite controversy a year ago that encouraged studios to cast more black actors. Each platform has at least one LGBTQ character that's HIV-positive, with only one such character a regular (Oliver on "How to Get Away with Murder").
GLAAD found a record-high percentage of series regular characters with disability on broadcast television at 1.7% of all series regulars. But the group offers a mixed assessment of overall LGBTQ representation on television for the 2016-2017 television season.
It's interesting that lesbian representation is down, though unsurprising-lest we forget, numerous "Bury Your Gays" tropes displayed this year saw the end of many fan favorite lesbian characters.
Several transgender characters had regular or recurring roles this year, the report noted - a big improvement since there were no trans characters on broadcast TV last year.
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On the downside, more than 25 lesbian and bisexual female-identifying characters were killed off on scripted television and streaming services since the beginning of 2016, according to the report. Twelve of those deaths were on broadcast TV alone.
Despite the rise in characters, the report notes that lesbian characters "decreased dramatically from the previous year". "It continues a decades-long trend of killing LGBTQ characters - often exclusively to further a straight, cisgender character's plotline - which sends a unsafe message to audiences that LGBTQ people are secondary and disposable".
Yes, being seen is one step towards fixing the problem of LGBTQ representation on TV, but having stories that matter is the real solution.
Glaad's president Sarah Kate Ellis said it was "heartening to see progress being made" but said numbers were "only part of the story". It's interesting considering CW superhero executive producer Greg Berlanti spoke earlier this year about increasing diversity and promised a "significant character" would be exploring their sexuality. I'm talking about the "Bury Your Gays" trope, something which was highly publicized earlier this year after The CW's The 100 killed off a major character.
GLAAD's "Where We Are on TV" report reveals that 4.8 percent (43 characters) of characters in the 2016/2017 TV season are LGBTQ, compared to 95.4 percent (854 characters) being heterosexual.
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