By Sandra Gonzalez
Broadcast television networks are doing a better job than ever at bringing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters into the storytelling fold, according to a new report from GLAAD.
Of 895 regular characters anticipated to get screentime on a broadcast series in the period surveyed (June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017), 43 (or 4.8 percent) identified as LGBTQ, according to the organization’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report. There were also 28 recurring characters who identified as LGBTQ.
That’s the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars noted since GLAAD began tracking it 12 years ago.
GLAAD also found record-high percentages of black series regulars (20 percent) and characters with disabilities (1.7 percent). There was also more LGBTQ characters on streaming series (up to 65 from 59). Cable’s total was even with the previous year (142).
“While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it’s important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO.
ABC — home to Modern Family and How to Get Away With Murder — leads the pack, with 7.3 percent of all its regular characters identifying as LBGTQ.
FOX came in second, with 6.4 percent. It was also noted by GLAAD as the broadcast network that came most close to “accurately reflecting our population’s gender balance,” with women accounting for nearly half of its series regulars.
The news wasn’t all good.
GLAAD notes that 25 queer female characters across all platforms (broadcast, cable and streaming) have died since the start of 2016.
“Most of these deaths served no other purpose than to further the narrative of a more central (and often straight, cisgender) character,” Ellis noted. “When there are so few lesbian and bisexual women on television, the decision to kill these characters in droves sends a toxic message about the worth of queer female stories.”
These deaths have included lesbian and bi-sexual female characters from NBC’s Chicago Fire, CW’s Supernatural, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Syfy’s The Magicians and CW’s The 100.
The latter particularly caused an uproar among the show’s fans, as producers had built in a romantic storyline between the deceased character — Lexa, played by Alycia Debnam-Carey — and lead protagonist Clarke (Eliza Taylor).
The uproar caused some fans to boycott the program and begin using #LGBTfansdeservebetter on social media.
It also brought attention to the increasing number of LGBTQ character deaths on television, often referred to as the “Bury Your Gays” TV trope.