Representation of the LGBTQ+ in Entertainment Media
According to a study done by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an estimation of about 9 million Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Considering America is populated by about 322 million people, this is a very staggering statistic. In a study done by the Human Rights Campaign, 4 in 10 LGBT youth claim that the communities that they live in are not accepting of their sexual orientation. Given these stunning statistics, one would expect to see more characters in television who identify as such. However, entertainment media has made an effort to exclude LGBTQ+ characters from television, films, and other forms of entertainment. By discussing issues that affect the LGBT community, such as the introduction of LGBTQ+ themes into entertainment media, I hope to bring awareness and more acceptance towards people like me.
Lack of Diversity in Hollywood
Hollywood typically casts heterosexual white actors or actresses as lead roles in top grossing films and often excludes minority groups- the LGBT community being one of them. In an article published by the Associated Press in the New York Times titled “Study Finds Inequality Unchanged in Hollywood” stated that LGBT roles were excluded from many films. Out of 4,370 characters that were studied from major films in 2015, only 32 of those characters identified as something other than heterosexual. While this does introduce the concept of including LGBTQ+ characters on screen, these statistics do not indicate the measures that others such as animators or directors have taken to introduce the LGBTQ+ community into mainstream entertainment media. Hollywood aims to release media that will supposedly include minority roles and several other ethnicities, but based on the statistics mentioned, it seems very exclusive. However, other forms of entertainment such as comic books, television shows, and music have introduced LGBTQ+ themes into audiences nationally and globally.
LGBTQ+ Heroes and Heroines
As 21st century America begins to move forward with issues surrounding exclusion and tolerance, world renown comic book artists have led the progressive movement forward and have started including LGBTQ+ characters into comic books, films, tv series, etc. The article “Coming Out as Gay Superheroes” by George Gene Gustines (published on Dec. 23, 2015) brings to light the introduction of gay superheroes in the comic book world. Gustines cites Iceman as a prominent character from the Marvel universe that was revealed to be gay.
Gustines refers to author Steve Orlando and acknowledges his efforts to introducing a bisexual male character by the name of Midnighter. Orlando goes on to state that his audience doesn’t want his characters to be defined by their sexual orientation, but he’d rather “want themes integrated into the story.” Gustines also accredits Jennie Wood and animator Jeff McComsey for their book Flutter. Flutter, a story of a 15-year-old female who shapeshifts into a male to be involved in a relationship with another male, was praised by The Advocate-a US based gay and lesbian national news magazine- as 2013’s best LGBT graphic novels.
Steven Universe: Introducing LGBTQ+ Messages as the Norm
Comic books aren’t the only source of media promoting the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community into mainstream media-so is television. Cartoon Network animator Rebecca Sugar has made strides with her hit television show Steven Universe. The television portrays Steven Universe, an 11-year old boy who grows up under the supervision of his intergalactic space guardians known as The Crystal Gems. The television show not only highlights what it’s like to grow up from the perspective of Steven, but it also introduces the concept of same-sex relationships.
While the Crystal Gems-and other Homeworld Gems- do not have a defined gender, they all use female pronouns. With that being said, Rebecca Sugar did a lovely job of introducing the concept of fusion between two characters named Ruby and Sapphire. Gems have the ability to literally and metaphorically fuse with another gem; this fusion combines the physical and mental attributes of the two(or sometimes multiple) gems to create a whole different gem. Garnet, a gem fusion composed of Ruby and Sapphire, embodies the love between Ruby and Sapphire. Garnet was revealed to be a fusion in the episode “Jail Break” and this was a very pivotal moment in the show. Not only did this revelation come as a shock to audience nation and worldwide, but the revelation was applauded! Sugar certainly integrated LGBTQ+ themes into her show and continues to do so in many episodes to come.
Sia’s Groundbreaking Tribute
While the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community has slowly been introduced into mainstream media, it has certainly been creating positive impacts globally. Television shows, comic books, and music, have all certainly made strides to incorporate messages of acceptance and inclusion into their work. My personal favorite example of an artist incorporating LGBTQ+ messages into their works is musician Sia Furler, better known as Sia. Following the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub-a gay club- shooting in Orlando, Florida, Sia quickly took to her music to pay homage to the victims and survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in US history. On September 06, 2016, Sia dropped her single “The Greatest,” a song whose lyrics and music video pay tribute to the victims. Sia’s music video elicits a feeling of sadness all while alluding to the tragic incident that occurred. A powerful image that was seen in the music video was a bullet ridden wall-demonstrating the devastating aftermath of the gunfire. Sia’s lyrics also allude to the incident, for example, she sings “I’m free to be the greatest here tonight” to refer to the individual’s in the club just being themselves. Sia’s music video raises awareness of the dangers that plague the LGBTQ+ community.
1. Gustines, George. “Coming Out As Gay Superheroes” NY TIMES. Published Dec. 23, 2015. Accessed September 09, 2016
2. Coyle, Jake. “Study Finds Inequality Unchanged in Hollywood” The Associated Press. Published September 06, 2016. Accessed September 09, 2016.
3.“Growing Up LGBT In America: View Statistics“. Human Rights Campaign. Date Published: Unknown. Accessed September 09,2016.
4.Gates, Gary. “How Many People Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender?” The Williams Institute. Published April 2011. Accessed September 09, 2016