Wednesday, September 26, 2007


As I was saying in my post about the South of Nowhere girls, there is little representation of queer women on network television. In fact, as it turns out, there is pretty much none. At all.

Just recently, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) came out with a report "Where We Are on TV." This report tallies the number of LGBT Characters on both network television and cable television for 2007-2008 broadcasting year. Figures were taken at the season launch, and for Broadcast Networks include ABC, CBS, NBC, the CW, and FOX. The counts are broken down into LGBT characters playing lead roles, supporting roles and recurring roles. Out of the 20 total LGBT characters on Broadcast Networks, there are two lead characters -- one a gay, white male and the other a bisexual, white woman. There are five supporting characters (3 gay, one male bisexual and one straight MTF -- that's a male to female transexual who sleeps with men). There are 13 recurring characters -- two white lesbians, eight gay white males, one black gay male, one latino gay male, and one white MTF.

Clearly the representation of LGBT characters in general is dismally poor, but to top it off, the community that is represented is overwhelmingly that of gay, white males. There is little room for lesbians and clearly even less room for queer people of color. Some might say, oh one small step at a time. I might even be tempted to agree with that. After all, society's feelings towards LGBT people are still lukewarm at best. But, wait! What's that you say, GLAAD? These numbers have gone down over the past three years?

In 1996-1997, there were 33 LGBT characters on network television. Jump ahead a few years and in 2005-2006, there were 24 LGBT characters on network television (with 4 lesbians, 19 gays and one bisexual). In 2006-2007 there were 21 (16 gays, 4 lesbians and one transgender). That brings us to 2007-2008 where we see 20 total. What's with the drop? No big deal, one might think. But when there are so few to begin with, a drop of 4 over a two year period is a big deal. That's a 17% decrease. There were 13 MORE characters TEN YEARS AGO! When you stop to think about all the characters on television -- including leads , supportings and recurring roles, 20 is a miniscule amount. And maybe -- just maybe -- if there were more LGBT characters on television, there would be a slow increase in acceptance. Wouldn't it be nice if all the young girls out there questioning their sexuality were actually able to see themselves represented? If the only two lesbians on network TV weren't the recurring role of a middle-aged mayor and an animated character on The Simpsons??

For all the talk of how liberal Hollywood is and how many gays and lesbians are behind the [Photo]scenes in show business, it amazes me that they can't find a little courage and actually provide a fair representation of the American population. They seem to have no problem whatsoever showing two girls kiss when they want a boost in ratings -- so why is it so unbelievably hard for those two girls to just keep on kissing?

But at least there is Cable to take over where network TV fails miserably. Of course, cable television could do better itself, but it certainly exceeds the standards set by network. In 2007-2008 there are 57 LGBT characters on "Mainstream Cable" TV. That breaks down to 16 in leading roles, 24 in supporting roles and 17 in recurring roles. Those numbers break down to 25 gays, 19 lesbians, 11 bisexuals and 2 transgender individuals. In terms of race, cable fares somewhat better than network -- with 39 whites, 8 blacks, 3 latinas, 5 asians, and 1 biracial character.

Unlike network TV, cable's numbers have actually risen from 35 last year (17 gays, 14 lesbians, 4 bisexuals and 1 transgender) to this year's 57.

Thank you to GLAAD for making this report, and here's hoping that next year's a better one. Until then, I'll be happy to keep paying for my cable subscription...

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