Every year, GLAAD tallies up the numbers of LGBT characters on American television and delivers its findings. What they’ve found in 2010-2011 is that, “for the first time in four years, the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters on scripted primetime broadcast television is expected to decrease.”
The good news? We aren’t losing any of our major network primetime players. We will retain Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy, Santana and Brittany on Glee and Kalinda on The Good Wife. GLAAD also counts Adrianna on 90210 and Angela on Bones as regular bisexual characters. We also will see more of Rules of Engagement‘s lesbian surrogate mother, Brenda (Sara Rue) in her recurring role, and Thirteen will make a few brief appearances on the new season of House.
On daytime, we mourn the loss of All My Children‘s Bianca and Marissa, but The Ellen DeGegeneres Show continues to be one of the highest rated daytime TV talk shows. Also Sara Gilbert is the producer and one of the hosts of CBS’ The Talk and Jillian Michaels left The Biggest Loser, but joined The Doctors.
When it comes to cable, we lost two characters to a series ending (Nurse Kelly on Hawthorne; Tea on Skins) and a few others to the true death on True Blood (Nan and Sophie-Ann — and possibly Tara). But we have gained several out female characters within the last year on Boardwalk Empire, White Collar, Pretty Little Liars, Mad Men, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Weeds, Torchwood and Being Human. While some of these shows have their lesbian or bisexual characters relegated to bit parts, Pretty Little Liars is home to a major lesbian character and three revolving young women she’s dating.
Other shows with regular lesbian or bi characters on cable include Degrassi, Nurse Jackie and the animated series Archer. Shameless also has bisexual and lesbian bit parts. Also The Rosie Show debuts Oct. 7 on OWN.
What is the most apparent from these findings are the absence of black or Asian lesbian or bisexual women on television. There are only three out black female characters on television, and they are all on cable: Maya on Pretty Little Liars, Diana on White Collar and Tara on True Blood. The only Asian women are Michaela Conlin (Bones), who is half-Chinese and half-Irish and Shay Mitchell on Pretty Little Liars, who is half-Filipino.
A new major lesbian character has emerged on NBC’s The Playboy Club. Bunny Alice is part of a storyline about the Mattachine Society and is a significant part of the series. And while we’ve heard about several developing shows with lesbian characters in the past year, no others have made it past the pilot point. Still, there continue to be more in the works on network TV, although there is no word on if any of the characters will be women of color.
Other GLAAD findings indicate there are still a lot less LGBT women (and women in general) on TV than men. So overall, it’s a reminder of what we already know, but provides the evidence we need to back us up. We need more representation, specifically when it comes to LGBT women of black and Asian descent. But we’re also in need of lesbian and bisexual characters who have bigger and more regular roles. No lesbian characters carry their own shows, and the ones we do have are part of ensemble casts. One exception will be Lost Girl when it comes to SyFy mid-season. (Thank you, Canada!)
Upcoming pilots that have hinted at lesbian characters include a new doctor drama from Ilene Chaiken and NBC’s new series, My Best Friend is a Lesbo. With Portia and Ellen also developing their own comedy, there is a high probability of a major lesbian character — at least we hope so.
How do you feel about the TV outlook for lesbian and bisexual women? What would you want to see more of?