Opening up GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV report every year is kind of like unwrapping a holiday prezzie you forgot you were getting. And for the last few years, it’s been the good kind of gift, too, like a wool sweater with a big "G" for "Gay" hand-knitted by Mrs. Weasley, and not like a box of bogey-flavored Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.
This year, LGBT characters make up 3.9 percent of all characters on network TV, a slight increase from last year, which was a slight increase from the year before that. Steadily increasing gay and lesbian visibility on network TV! Hurrah, America!
But, continuing to read GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV report every year isn’t always as heartening. Let’s break it down into Good, Bad and Ugly, shall we?
GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV: The Good
- 23 out of 587 characters on broadcast TV are LGBT. That’s five more than last year.
- The number of regular LGBT characters on cable has also increased. There are 53 this year, a huge leap from the 18 last year.
- ABC continues to lead all broadcast networks in positive portrayals of LGBT characters. 7.2 percent of ABC characters are queer.
- Even CBS, the worst network in the country for LGBT visibility, has added five recurring lesbian and bisexual characters.
- Only NBC saw a decline in LGBT characters, which is due in full to the cancellation of Trauma, Southland and Mercy.
- Callie and Arizona, the only lesbian couple on primetime broadcast television, are cuter than ever.
GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV: The Bad
- Callie and Arizona are the only the lesbian couple on primetime broadcast television.
- The only regular lesbian character added to primetime this year is Patty from CW’s Hellcats.
- Women only make up 30 percent of LGBT characters on primetime. Of the eight female characters, six are bisexual. And of the six bisexual characters, one is married to a man (Angela, Bones), one will not be filming a full season (Thirteen, House), and one will date a woman again when I eat my keyboard (Adrianna, 90210).
- People of color make up only 19% of LGBT characters on primetime.
- AfterEllen.com favorites True Blood and Glee are the gayest shows on TV.
GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV: The Ugly
- There are no black LGBT characters on broadcast TV. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
- There are no recurring transgender characters on broadcast TV.
GLAAD doesn’t spend much time on reality TV for lots of reasons, including the fact that we don’t know in advance if producers are going to titillate us with fauxmosexuality. (I made that up. GLAAD didn’t say that — but it’s the truth.) However, they did note that Sara Gilbert‘s appearance on The Talk coupled with another season of Ellen DeGeneres‘ universally-loved talk show is a great thing for lesbian visibility in the day time.
When I started writing this post, I intended to do a cutesy little list of ways networks could make next year’s Where We Are On TV report even more encouraging. I was going to suggest giving Wanda Sykes her own sitcom where she plays a lesbian on account of she’s black and also a lesbian. I was going to suggest finally making Brittnay gay on Glee because she’s almost there. I was going to suggest allowing bisexual characters to actually date women. And I was going to make a joke about it. But you know what? Here’s the real thing I want to say to network TV about lesbian and bisexual characters: Just effing do it already.
After the sensational success of Modern Family and Glee (in ratings, critical acclaim, awards and social media buzz), it is obvious that America is ready to embrace gay characters. Lesbians are gay, too. Get in there and give them to us! Give us a lovable, female version of Cam and Mitch and gently mock our stereotypes. Give us a burgeoning female superstar like Kurt Hummel who will make us cry and laugh and hope in brand new ways. No more girl/girl kisses for Sweeps week only. No more maybe kisses behind closed garage doors. No more excuses!
Maybe this is a sad commentary on our times, but the mood of the nation is not going to change without the support of the entertainment industry. Knowing gay people changes minds. And knowing gay characters is like knowing gay people. Four teens killed themselves this week because of homophobic bullying. It’s not a game, networks; it’s your responsibility to make a difference.
I want to open up my Where We Are On TV report next year and get an 18-page sugar buzz because you finally started getting it right past the first paragraph.