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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 45
LGBTQ characters hit record high on network TV
Section One
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LGBTQ characters hit record high on network TV

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

A record number of LGBTQ characters are featured on broadcast series, according to a GLAAD study released Thursday. But in a dark twist, the small screen can be deadly for female characters.

For its annual report titled 'Where We Are on TV,' researchers tallied the LGBTQ characters seen or set to be portrayed in the period from June 2016 to May 2017. Counts were based on series airing or announced and for which casting has been confirmed.

According to the study, TV remains far ahead of film in LGBTQ representations.

Still, say officials in the study, 'the medium failed queer women this year by continuing the harmful 'bury your gays' trope.' More than 25 Lesbian and Bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable, and streaming series this year, GLAAD found in its report on small-screen diversity. It's part of a decade-long pattern in which LGBTQ are seen as disposable.

On the brighter side, the study, which in 2005 began examining other aspects of diversity on TV, found record percentages of people of color and people with disabilities depicted on broadcast shows.

Among the detailed findings:

o Broadcast TV includes the highest percentage of regularly appearing Gay characters - 4.8% - since Gay rights organization GLAAD began its count 21 years ago. Among nearly 900 series regular characters on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC, 43 characters are LGBTQ, up from 35 last season.

o Streamed shows included 65 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, up six from last season. Lesbians, including characters on 'One Mississippi' and 'Orange Is the New Black,' account for the majority of characters, 43%, a far higher share than on broadcast or cable.

o Cable series held steady with 142 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, with a 5% increase in the number of Gay men but a 2% drop in the number of Lesbian characters depicted.

o The number of Transgender characters in regular or recurring appearances on all platforms has more than doubled from last season, from seven to 16.

o Characters with a disability represented 1.7% of all regularly seen broadcast characters, up from 0.9% last season. Each platform has at least one LGBTQ character who is HIV positive.

o African-Americans will be 20% (180) of regularly seen characters on prime-time broadcast shows this season, the highest share yet found by GLAAD. But black women are underrepresented at 38% of the total, or 69 characters.

o The percentage of regularly appearing Asian-Pacific Islanders on broadcast TV hit 6%, the highest tally found by GLAAD and slightly more than the group's US population percentage. Contributing to the increase are the Asian-American family shows 'Fresh Off the Boat' and 'Dr. Ken.'

o Latino characters rose a point to 8%, equaling the highest representation found two seasons ago by GLAAD. That differs sharply from the 17% Latino representation in the US population as measured by the Census Bureau, the report said.

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