Are gay men more acceptable than lesbians on TV?


There are a few exceptions. Current shows doing justice to their regular lesbian characters include Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Stargate Universe and Skins, but think of how rare those are in the grand scheme of television. (I’m speaking specifically of American television and including Skins because it airs on BBC America.) And while we have a few lesbian characters in smaller recurring roles on Nurse Jackie, and the upcoming seasons of Weeds and Hellcats, it’d be great to see them expand their roles, as Pam was able to on True Blood. If The Good Wife‘s Kalinda actually shows any other hint of bisexuality on the new season, I’ll applaud CBS whole-heartedly — she’s a character with depth, and one I’m glad to have on our team. However, a new male love interest for her has been cast, so it’s unlikely we’ll end up pleased come season 2.

On the new season of White Collar, we see the return of Detective Diana Lancing, but she’s still a bit part compared to the show’s main characters — both straight men (on screen, that is.) And despite The Bridge‘s Jill having a girlfriend in the first episode, the publicist told me she would make no other mention of her bisexuality on the show as she continued to sleep with her male co-worker. In the end, the show was recently canceled after just three episodes.

It remains to be seen how the lesbian moms and Eve Best‘s bisexual character will be handled on a new season of Nurse Jackie. And with Olivia Wilde taking time off from House to work on movies, it’s definitely time to add some more gay women to the fall roster.

So networks, I propose to you that you take these brilliant characters that you’ve already created and give them something more than a one-off line on their sexuality or simply subtext. In case you are unaware, there are just as many lesbians as gay men and, if your own theories prove to be true, there’s a little bit of lesbian in every straight girl — at least during sweeps week.

Ilene Chaiken told Salon she thinks there has been some progress with LGBT characters over the last 25 years.

… Gay characters are no longer portrayed as tragic and pathetic and destined for suicide or the odd quirky best friends. But there’s still remarkably few prominent gay characters who are as enfranchised as the straight characters we’ve seen on TV all of our lives. We’re slowly populating the TV landscape, but we still lag far behind our actual numbers relative to the population at large.

Well that’s partly true — we may not be the suicidal ones anymore, but writers aren’t afraid to pluck bisexual characters right back into heterosexuality or keep lesbians as a subplot, useful for a limited amount of time only. The lesbian and bisexual characters that do stick around are often much smaller parts than their gay counterparts. For example, True Blood is a very gay show, but the two queer female characters (Pam and Sophie-Ann) have limited screentime, even if they make an appearance in each episode. The gay Lafayette, however, is much more of a mainstay with more developed storylines and even a new love interest in season 3.

As GLAAD notes in their report,

Consistently, the most common area of improvement among broadcast and cable is diversity. It is clear from our findings that gay white men still dominate the television landscape on the broadcast networks. Though programs such as Brothers & Sisters and Glee deserve accolades for their high-profile gay characters (and have in fact received them from GLAAD), these shows — and many more — offer only gay white male representations. Cable networks are slowly improving in this area with shows like True Blood and GREEK, but more improvement is needed before overall LGBT representation reflects the various cultural back- grounds and experiences of the LGBT community. Until that happens, broadcast and cable networks are leaving many LGBT viewers struggling to find images that reflect their lives and communities.

I hope that the networks will pay attention to GLAAD’s research and begin to give us the gay female characters that we feel reflect our “lives and communities.” Until then, we’ll continue to be glad for the few we do have on a weekly basis.

More you may like