Expanding LGBT Inclusive Content into Television Networks
The lack of LGBTQIA representation in entertainment media is very prominent in The United States. GLAAD, a LGBT news media outlet, recently released a report that graded major television networks based on how they represent members of the LGBT community. Networks such as ABC(now Freeform), TBS, CW, etc., all seem to have relatively high grading due to their representation of LGBT characters.
While LGBT+ characters are slowly being portrayed on media platforms such as television and films, it is ultimately broadcasting networks and film studios that make the decision of whether or not to convey these kinds of characters on screen.
The Network Responsibility Index
Every year, GLAAD releases a Network Responsibility Index(also known as NRI) that provides an in depth look as to what LGBT-inclusive content is aired on television. The report states that 74% of ABC Family’s original programming includes LGBT characters, citing Pretty Little Liars as one of the most representative television shows belonging to the network. Based on the NRI. GLAAD reported that this percentage was “the highest-ever percentage of LGBT-inclusive programming for any network tracked in the NRI.” Based on the findings from the NRI, one could see that family broadcasting networks like ABC have definitely made progress into including characters who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. ABC currently produces about 258 hours(or 32% of its original programming) worth of LGBT inclusive content.
FOX Moves Forward with LGBT Inclusiveness
The article “GLAAD: ABC Family, Fox Earn Top Grades for LGBT Content” by R. Thomas Umstead, mentions that Fox only recently featured the highest percentage of LGBT-inclusive programs. According to Umstead, this is the first time in the NRI report that Fox received “Excellent” as a grade. GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis states, “[t]his milestone highlights real change across the media landscape – especially considering that the network received a “Failing” grade in theNRI‘s first two editions.” Out of its total broadcast content, Fox produced 45.4% of LGBT-inclusive content, a significantly higher amount than ABC.
Lack of LGBT Representation in the Film Industry
Similar to the NRI, GLAAD also released another critical report scrutinizing the film industries apparent lack of LGBT+ representation. The article “In LGBT Report, GLAAD Urges Film to be More Like TV” reintroduced another study called the Studio Responsibility Index. GLAAD analyzed major film releases from the six biggest Hollywood studios(Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures,Sony Columbia, and Warner Brothers) in 2012 and found that only 14 of the 101 films produced by Hollywood studios included LGBT characters—out of those 14, only 4 included LGBT+ characters in major roles. According to the article, Hollywood studios like Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Sony Columbia scored “adequate” grades when it came to portraying LGBT+ characters on the big screen.
Finding disappointing results, GLAAD released a statement claiming:
“If the major Hollywood studios want a real barometer of how much has changed in our society and how much catching up they have to do, they need only look at what’s become one of the greatest threats to their viability: television. ”
LGBT Characters Portrayed in Television and Films
As previously mentioned, major television networks have outranked Hollywood studios in terms of providing LGBT+ inclusive content to viewers. While Hollywood has provided a few portrayals of LGBT+ characters, GLAAD notes that comedies seem to be one of the few kinds of films which include LGBT+ characters. Out of the 24 observed comedic films, 9 films portrayed a non-heterosexual character. Although this does provide some kind of on screen portrayal, it should be noted that most films portray LGBT+ characters in a stereotypical fashion. Films like Mean Girls, Boat Trip, or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry convey inaccurate—and offensive—stereotypes of the LGBT+ community. On the other hand, television shows like “Modern Family” or “Grey’s Anatomy” include characters who “play pivotal roles in their plots.”
Who Has the Power?
Major broadcasting networks and Hollywood studios make the decisions to depict LGBT+ characters onscreen. The study conducted by GLAAD in both television and film only emphasizes how little entertainment media has progressed in terms of depicting LGBT characters on screen. Sure, television network like Fox have received praise for LGBT inclusive content, but not enough networks or films introduce LGBT+ characters into captivating plots. Controversy over the exclusion of LGBT+ characters has increased due to the very poor portrayal of such characters.
In an effort to promote inclusiveness, GLAAD has posted a petition imploring Hollywood to include more LGBT+ characters. Not only does GLAAD’s studies of television and film portrayals of LGBT+ characters allow audiences to realize how little LGBT characters are introduced onto screen, but it hopes to influence public opinion. GLAAD stated, “…[Hollywood] could help bring about a change in public opinion in places most restrictive on gay rights.” As Hollywood films and television networks are broadcast internationally, areas that are severely homophobic may be open to the idea of acceptance and change solely based on what is being aired on television. With that being said, Hollywood and major broadcasting networks definitely have an impact as to what content to show on screen. Consequently, that content is deemed “inappropriate” and more often than not, it is not aired to the general public. As a result, there is a lack of acceptance and representation of LGBT+ characters.
1. Sneed, Tierney. “In LGBT Report, GLAAD Urges Film to Be More Like TV.” US News.Published Aug. 21, 2013. Date accessed October 18, 2016
2. Umstead, Thomas R. “GLAAD: ABC Family, Fox Earn Top Grades for LGBT Content.” Multichannel News. Published Sept. 03, 2015. Date accessed October 18, 2016
3. Coates, Tyler. “The 20 Worst Depictions of LGBT Characters on Film” FlavorWire.Published June 26, 2013. Date accessed October 18, 2016