It’s autumn which means it’s time again for GLAAD to tally up their report on where we are on TV. The “Where We Are on TV Report – 2019” is out and this time GLAAD is throwing out an intersectional challenge.
A Brief Overview
Before we jump into things, a few things to remember. This is generally a US centric report. While GLAAD does look into some international shows, it’s very skewed American.
Also the term ‘linear network’ refers to network television and cable. This is how it’s differentiated from ‘streaming.’ Network television is synonymous with broadcast.
- 10.2% of regulars characters on broadcast TV are LGBTQ (up from 8.2%)
- Cable TV rep is similarly trending up
- Transgender representation is up roughly 40% from last year
- Lesbian representation is up 8 percentage points to 33%
- For the second year in a row, PoC LGBTQ characters of color outnumber white characters on broadcast television
- The top networks for LGBTQ regular characters are Netflix (streaming), Showtime (cable), and The CW (broadcast)
- Bisexual rep is down, percentage wise, but up numerically
- Racial diversity is up on linear TV but down on streaming
- 46% of regular characters (LGBTQ or not) are women, which is an improvement but still below the real-world number of 51% of the population being female
- 3.1% of regular primetime broadcast characters have a disability, which is a record-high while still wildly under-representing reality
- Todd Chavez on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman remains the lone asexual regular/recurring character (there will be another on the upcoming Hazbin Hotel, but that only makes for two)
- The only lead LGBTQ character on broadcast TV with a disability is Dex from Stumptown
- Half of all LGBTQ rep is on cable TV
- 6 cable TV shows make up 28% of all rep on cable
- Amazon and Hulu have no trans characters on their upcoming original shows
This are getting better and more equal. Yes, we have a long way to go, and broadcast TV is still scared of making a majority LGBTQ cast (like The L Word or Pose). The disparity is even more stark when you remember that streaming media only makes up for a quarter of all LGBTQ characters. Cable also needs to spread out their characters more.
And what about GLAAD’s challenge?
GLAAD is calling on the industry to make sure that 20 percent of series regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast series are LGBTQ by 2025. Further, we would challenge all platforms – broadcast, cable, and streaming – that within the next two years, at least half of LGBTQ characters on each platform are also people of color. This is an important next step towards ensuring that our entertainment reflects the world in which it is created and the audience consuming it.
We agree with this. You cannot make progress with representation if you don’t make it reflect the world around us. Inclusion is paramount. There’s a reason shows like Vida and One Day at a Time are our favourites. They tell stories we relate with, even when the characters aren’t us. Because stories are for everyone.
As queer viewers, we’re used to having to connect with characters who don’t directly reflect us. We see the cis-white-male protagonist, and we project ourselves as Luke Skywalker, Magnum, and anyone from a million other shows. When we did find a queer character, they were rarely ‘us,’ so much as an amalgamation of many of us. We got accustomed to not getting what and who we are.
Perhaps this is why we so readily attach ourselves to stories that are true but not about ourselves. I didn’t grow up with an autistic brother and star in track, but Cassie and Izzy’s story on Atypical resonates with me. I’m an Eastern European/Russian Jew, but One Day at a Time makes me think about how much everyone is like my family.
These stories, told with depth and heart, resonate. We’re drawn to them not out of desperation and projection, but because true stories are, quite simply, good stories. And better, having true stories with queers can be demonstrably proven to attract a audience.