GLAAD has released their annual report “Where We Are On TV“, and it appears we have the highest number of LGBTQ+ characters on television ever.
This marks the 24th year GLAAD has tracked LGBTQ+ characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming services such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. We’ve seen a 1.4% increase in the past year, totaling 10.2% of all characters included in the study being identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer. This met the challenge that GLAAD threw down for networks, which is a great sign for the direction of scripted programming in the years to come.
Of the 879 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime scripted programming in the coming year, 90 (10.2 percent) were counted as LGBTQ. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ regular characters GLAAD has counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming, and up from the previous year’s 8.8 percent. Last year, GLAAD called on the broadcast networks to ensure that 10 percent of primetime broadcast scripted series regulars were LGBTQ by 2020. In just one year, the networks met and exceeded this call.
The CW leads the pack for networks this year with 15.4% of their characters identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. NBC follows close behind with 12.5%, ABC at 10.4%, Fox at 7.9%, and CBS at 5.5%. Showtime leads cable programming with 38 LGBTQ+ characters, followed by FX with 31 and Freeform with 26. As far as streaming goes, Netflix blows the competition out of the water with 121 characters, followed extremely distantly by Hulu at 24 and Amazon at 8.
While television and streaming has stepped up and met GLAAD’s challenge for the year, GLAAD isn’t quite done pushing for more inclusive programming quite yet. They’ve thrown down a few more challenges for representation in the coming years. Firstly, they want LGBTQ+ characters to represent 20% of series regular characters on scripted television and streaming by 2025. This would match the Accelerating Acceptance Study, which shows that 20% of Americans between the ages of 18-34 identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Secondly, GLAAD want at least half of these characters to be POC. This year about 52% of the LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast shows were POC, which is the second time in a row they’ve outnumbered the white characters. So they’ve technically met this challenge as of this year, but hopefully they can maintain it going forward. Cable (48%) and streaming (41%), however, need to catch up.
There are some portions of the study, however, that leave a lot to be desired. There was only one asexual character confirmed this year – Todd Chavez on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. And he will not be returning next year. This means the number of asexual characters projected for 2020 is estimated to be at zero. This is an often forgotten demographic in the wider community to begin with, and viewers looking for representation are often left being forced to read between the lines or project asexual headcanons onto characters.
Our community is huge and diverse, and while some aspects of the community may be under represented or not represented at all, the overall trends is a positive one. While representation isn’t perfect, it’s still worth celebrating this victory as we push forward towards our next set of goals. At this rate, we could very well meet or exceed these goals long before our 2025 benchmark.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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