Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (September 26, 2008)



With the new fall television season comes GLAAD’s 13th annual survey of character diversity, “Where We Are on TV.”

The good news: This season brings more LGBT characters to TV than ever before. Quoting the study: “The overall number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representations on the broadcast networks will more than double this year after a three-year slump.”

Let us pause for a moment of bright-eyed optimism.

A closer look at the numbers, however, tells us they may be more a case of cosmetic surgery than genuine inclusion, especially for lesbians. That’s a nice way of saying that we’re still missing after all these years — there are no lesbians on the list.

Although I suppose that, technically, the number of lesbian regular characters on broadcast (non-cable) networks did double, since last year’s total was zero. I knew those multiplication tables would come in handy some day.

GLAAD’s pretty charts summarize the characters by sexual orientation:

As of Sept. 23, networks listed 616 series regulars. A total of 16, or 2.6 percent, fall in the LGBT category. No need to get your specs on to try to find the lesbian slice of the pie. This pie has no lesbian fruit.

In the recurring-character category, the number of lesbians actually did double, from two to four. We have Mayor Lucy Rodell on Friday Night Lights, Patty Bouvier on The Simpsons, and Mo and Trish, a lesbian couple on ABC’s yet-to-premiere animated show, The Goode Family.

In other words, we have one living, breathing, human lesbian, and three cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong — I like animated lesbians. Besides, cartoon characters always get away with more than real people. But is this really the best we can expect?

For bisexual women, the news is a bit brighter. Last year, GLAAD reported that the only bisexual female on network TV was Caitlin in Cashmere Mafia. Mafia was killed, but Callie and Erica discovered each other in the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Over the course of last season, we learned that House’s Thirteen is bisexual. The new season brings news from Bones that Angela is bisexual and a faint hope that Knight Rider’s Carrie, who certainly seemed to be bedding a female in the movie, also is bi (the season premiere gave no evidence to that effect).

The number of LGBT series regulars on cable dropped from 40 to 32 this year. If we add here! and Logo, both of which target LGBT viewers, the number increases by 39.

Sure, having lesbian and bisexual women on cable is important in terms of overall visibility, but I can’t get too excited about the cultural ramifications of adding more lesbians to lesbian-themed shows.

Of course, the main limitations in studies such as GLAAD’s is that the real impact of LGBT characters’ presence on television has less to do with quantity than quality. And that’s a hard thing to measure. I mean, I love the fact that some of my favorite shows now feature bisexual women. But I am not a bisexual woman. And a character with a same-sex relationship today that may be dissolved for an opposite-sex relationship tomorrow does not represent my sexuality — or me. I am not at all denigrating bisexuals or their relationships. I am saying that adding bisexual characters but excluding lesbians is a cop-out.

For complete results of GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV: 2007-2008, including LGBT character lists, visit GLAAD’s site. And maybe by next year, diversity will include lesbians, too.

— by the linster

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