This morning GLAAD released their annual Where We Are On TV report, a review of scripted GLBT primetime characters in the upcoming 2012-2013 television season. After a decrease last year, the number of regular GLBT characters on broadcast networks has risen to the highest ever recorded, while the overall GLBT character count also increased on cable television.
“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “More and more Americans have come to accept their GLBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives.”
In the past few years more and more shows have included gay characters, which is a very good thing. We have Glee, Modern Family, Smash, Pretty Little Liars, American Horror Story, and many others. But of all those shows, the only one my kid is allowed to watch (and that’s with some parental prescreening) is Glee.
As a mother, this concerns me. I have heard many gay and lesbian adults talk about what it was like to grow up with no media representation. It created feelings of isolation. It reinforced the notion that they were “other.” And many thought that because they weren’t mentioned, they must have been something secret, something bad. While my own child might be an extreme example, children are coming out younger and younger. It’s increasingly common for children to come out at 12 or 13 years old. And what does TV present them? Only Glee.
It’s not a surprise to see that television series dealing in fashion feature LGBT people, as that industry has long embraced the LGBT community, and many of TLC’s inclusive hours consist of wedding- and dress-centered programs that feature openly gay designers or stylists. Yet many of those same shows also feature same-sex couples (usually lesbian couples) in ways that move beyond stereotypes, showing them shopping for wedding dresses or looking for help planning ceremonies. The reality is that weddings are some of the most “traditional” and conservative ceremonies that many people participate in during their lives, and TLC’s programs consistently show that it means just as much for same-sex couples to pledge their love for one another in front of family and friends as it does for opposite-sex couples. For many conservative viewers (and these shows have a lot), it’s a quietly powerful reminder that at their heart, LGBT issues aren’t about politics or positions but about people. For some, it may be the first time they ever see LGBT people in this context at all.
Fall is a hopeful time for TV viewers. Every new show is an unknown, save for a handful of promos and publicity photos and we’re waiting to find out if the show lives up to the promise of a great idea or… withers away to inspire case studies of failure analysis.
There are few obvious trends this year. The New Normal and Partners both feature a gay couple among its lead characters while Arrow and 666 Park Avenue try to capture the Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist that helped make Revenge a hit. But overall, this fall lacks the “me too” quality that so often characterizes a TV season.
The one trend that does stand out this season are strong ideas that don’t quite meet their potential in the pilot. Vegas, Last Resort, 666 Park Avenue and The Mindy Project are some of the pilots that left critics hoping that later episodes fix the rough spots. Still, there’s enough variety this year that, no matter what your tastes, there should be a few shows you’re excited to check out. On the following pages you’ll get the skinny on the new shows we’re most excited about, arranged chronologically by premiere date.
Again, youth-skewing network CW came out on top with 29% of its programming hours devoted to positive portrayals of gay people, including a gay wedding on 90210.
ABC and Fox came in second and third place, respectively, while NBC again was in fourth. CBS, the network preferred by oldest Americans, still has only 8% inclusivity, meaning it is still taking up the rear on this one.