-->

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Apparently there are lots of LGBT people on TV?

...but I don't see it? What am I missing?

Article after article start off with "there's so many gay people on TV!" "there's so many LGBT characters on TV!" "ZOMG SO MANY CHARACTERS!" but usually very light on specifics.

And I'm not seeing them - not only am I not seeing them but I'm reviewing a vast amount of media for Fangs for the Fantasy and still not seeing them. We're reviewing 14 shows at the moment: Walking Dead, Z Nation, Resurrection, Once Upon a Time, Forever, Originals, Supernatural, Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story, The 100, Vampire Diaries, Grimm, Haven and Constantine and only 4 of them have LGBT characters: Walking Dead has a background, near-silent lesbian who makes T-Dog look positively involved in the group. Vampire Diaries and Originals have GBFs who do nothing but support the straight characters and disappear for several episodes at a time and American Horror Story has a sexualised intersex woman who tried to "convert" gay men and 2 gay male villains (and several murdered gay men).

4 of 14 and none of them a major character. Most of them really really tiny tokens.

And this isn't just a bad season. Summer had precious little extra - in fact all year the only notably LGBT characters we've had were on In The Flesh (a mini-series) and Orphan Black (which came with the bitter taste of a grossly stereotyped and walking joke, Felix).

In fact, in 2012 we looked at the LGBT characters on all the shows we'd covered at the time - when we'd watched 39 TV series and it was pretty dismal. Well, it's 2014 and we have now covered or looked at 81 different TV series - and of those 81, a full 41 have not one single LGBT character. A further 9 have a tiny LGBT character for 1 single episode and 11 have an LGBT character as someone minor lurking in the background (like Tara on The Walking Dead or Carolyn on Under the Dome).

That's 61. 61 out of 81 have no LGBT characters or teeny tiny walk on roles. Of the remaining 20 with meaningful LGBT presence, 11 (maybe 12) of those shows have been cancelled and 1 is on its last season. 3 of them had a bisexual female characters briefly mention their bisexuality before the whole show focused ferociously on opposite-sex relationships and lots of we-shall-never-speak-of-this-again so while they had a major LGBT character (which was great) if you missed one episode you'd probably not know it. There's also a lot of dubious tropes in the remainder




So, I'm not getting the hype. Is it the genre? Are there lots of LGBT characters out there but if you're a fan of speculative fiction then tough? LGBT characters have always been more common in soaps (large cast, no focused protagonist - lets you "dilute" the inclusion) and sitcoms (LGBT people in general and gay men especially are a common and cringe-worthy thread of dubious comedy). Which always leaves me having to choose between shows that annoy me (because a lot of these shows rely on offensive tropes - like the sexually predatory lawyer apparently solving every case with his cock) or shows that completely erase me - and if I want a show that's actually in a genre I enjoy AND acknowledges I exist? Well... they're rare. If I want that AND without homophobic tropes as well? Yeah, it's slim pickings

But even considering the possibility I just enjoy a very heterosexist genre, I look at GLAAD's extremely generous report and I see Under the Dome, Vampire Diaries, The Originals and Dracula noted as highlights... and... damn. It would almost be funny to have these teeny, tiny and often insulting tokens be considered "highlights". So is it even a genre problem so much as even a minority of shows including near non-existent tokens considered something to jump up and down about?