GLAAD Finds TV Representation Better, But Still Not Great
October 28, 2015 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Media watchdog and advocacy group GLAAD (the acronym doesn't stand for anything anymore) has released the 2015-2016 edition of its Where We Are On TV Report, breaking down the overall diversity of main and recurring characters on broadcast, cable, and (for the first time) streaming scripted television shows.

The good news: representation of LGB characters is around 4 percent, which is fairly reflective of the U.S. population (but whiter than the population); trans representation is rising (thanks largely to the inclusion of streaming shows), albeit still mostly using "harmful and outdated tropes"; and African-American representation is the highest it's been in the 11 years GLAAD has been tracking racial diversity.

The bad news: only 43 percent of regular characters in prime-time broadcast shows are women, Latino/a representation is still about half that of the U.S. population, and regular characters living with a disability has dropped to just under 1 percent.

GLAAD's President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, said in the introduction:
As each of us lives at the intersection of many identities, it’s important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community. It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; writers must craft those characters with thought and care. They must reject harmful, outdated stereotypes and avoid token characters that are burdened with representing an entire community through the view of one person. ... We’ve witnessed tremendous progress in television since GLAAD began tracking the presence of LGBT characters 20 years ago, but there is still a great deal of work to be done and many new and exciting stories to be told.
posted by Etrigan (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The full report has more nuanced analysis, and is only 32 pages long (though some pages are just collages of characters, so you could read the full thing pretty quickly). I was glad to see the report addresses how the individuals are represented, including the significant number of gay characters who are victims on crime shows.

I only skimmed the report, and didn't see why they limited the review to scripted programs. I wonder how these numbers would differ with inclusion of reality TV programming. Also, I'd be interested to see a report that focused more on the attitudes towards "minority" characters of all sorts. For instance, The Mindy Project (now a streaming program) has a new, recurring lesbian character who recently came out on the program, and the related drama was light and fleeting. Most characters pretty much said "yeah, we knew, and we're glad you were honest with us."

I'm still reveling in the lightness of the treatment of that moment, because it really does feel like significant progress has been made (with more to go) when a coming out moment is not the center of an episode, placed in the middle of the season as a high point for the relationship drama.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:09 AM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do like how homosexuals are now being included that just happen to be homosexual. Their sexual preference has nothing to do with the story, isn't commented on and isn't done just so the network can slap themselves on the back to brag about being tolerant.

More and more you see characters being added and treated like any other.

The police captain in The Flash and one of the newest Inhumans on Agents of SHIELD are two that come to mind.
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been wondering if GLAAD might have a thing or two to say about the recent murder of gay character Will Horton on Days of our Lives earlier this month... wasn't a fan of the show to begin with, but it's on every day in my household, and to see a major LGBT character brutally, graphically strangled and begging for his life (and televised during daytime on National Coming Out day/anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, no less) has occupied my thoughts and made me feel extremely uneasy ever since. They soaked up the accolades from GLAAD et al and EMMY awards back during Will's coming-out storyline, and to see his character written out in such a callous way (I'm betting due to lower ratings that they'll blame on the inclusion of gay characters and storylines in the first place) just makes me ill.

I'm a bit surprised to not see this having been addressed here or anywhere else aside from the odd blog post.
posted by wats at 1:26 PM on October 28, 2015

I do like how homosexuals are now being included that just happen to be homosexual.

Uh, two things.

1) We really don't like being referred to as 'homosexuals,' especially since
2) much of the increase is trans people, who may or may not also have a minority sexual orientation, and thus are excluded by reducing the acknowledged people to only homosexuals, as are those who are bisexual etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:40 PM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

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