It’s still a white man’s world for LGBT characters on scripted series but diversification is improving, according to GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report.
This year’s report from the LGBT-focused media advocacy organization analyzed the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks, as well as the diversity on cable and, for the first time, counted LGBT characters on original series that premiered on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.
The findings tracked scripted series which air or are expected to air in primetime between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016 for which casting has been announced. They learned that, of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime programming (ABC, CBS, the CW, Fox and NBC) in the coming year, 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual with an additional 35 LGB characters recurring. This is up from 32 from last year.
On cable, the numbers rose from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58. ABC Family and Showtime were the most LGBT-inclusive networks on cable, with each channel boasting 18 regular or recurring LGB characters. They were also the only places to find the three recurring transgender characters on cable. There were no transgender characters on primetime broadcast programming.
While bisexual characters, particularly bisexual men, did see an increase on broadcast and cable for this year, GLAAD determined that many characters were still written in a stereotypical fashion.
However, GLAAD found 43 LGBT series regulars and 16 recurring characters across 23 series on streaming services Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Due to the lack of traditional seasons for these providers, GLAAD determined these numbers based on both original content and foreign series premiering between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016 and for which casting has been announced by the content providers.
“Each of us lives at the intersection of many identities and it’s important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO & President of GLAAD. “It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; those characters need to be portrayed with thought and care to accurately represent an often tokenized community.”
The GLAAD study also found that racial diversity within these characters was still notably lacking, as 71% of LGBT characters on cable and 73% of those on streaming services were white. On broadcast, things were more positive: 33% (287) of 881 regular characters counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming were people of color, making for a six-point increase from last year. GLAAD also found that 16% (145) of regular characters on broadcast programming will be black — the highest percentage since the group began recording comprehensive racial data 11 years ago.
GLAAD also found that 43% of regular LGBT characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of three percentage points from last year. Fox has the most female series regulars (48% of their characters). This category was also lacking in racial diversity. There are 135 series regulars of color on broadcast, 59 of whom are black women, followed by 33 Latinas, 27 Asian Pacific-Islander women and 16 women who belong to another ethnicity or are multiracial (12%). On cable, 44% of the LGBT characters are female while 56% are male. On streaming services, those numbers switch.
“The critical and commercial success of series like ‘Empire,’ ‘Transparent,’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ can serve as an example to network executives that audiences are looking for stories they haven’t seen before; indeed, there are still plenty of stories about our community yet to be told,” added Ellis. “LGBT people of color have remained underrepresented for years, and transgender men have been all but invisible in the media.”