A recently completed study by GLAAD has shown that the 2016-17 television season will have the highest concentration of LGBTQ main characters EVER. GLAAD’s annual report, titled Where We Are on TV, gives the record-breaking numbers. This is 4,8%, or 43 characters to appear on broadcast, OR the maximum rate for 21-year tracking period.

The research also found that 20% of all series protagonists in the upcoming season will be black, one more record number in terms of media representation.
These piece of news lights hearts up. But besides tracking progress made in LGBTQ representation on TV, notices Sarah Kate Ellis, Glaad president and CEO, it is crucial to bear in mind that “numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community”.

Note: GLAAD used to be an acronym for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation but it acquired the status of the primary name in 2013 ’cause of the bisexual and transgender categories included. Glaad is a non-governmental media monitoring organization focused on discrimination in media. Key words used in its motto are understanding, acceptance and equality. Why is it important? Such deeds are considered a form of activism as it deals with burning issues to inspire a dialogue that leads to social and cultural change.

 

Shown… but by at what cost?

25 queer female characters have died on scripts of TV shows this year. Obviously, these victims were picked to highlight the story of the straight main character. Murder of these characters disseminates a toxic message about the worth of queer narratives, as Ellis wrote in the report. Interestingly enough, there is a distinct division of power between gay men and women. While the former category takes the lion’s share of representation on cable and broadcast shows, the latter one is best represented on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. The brightest example of a show featuring lesbians is Orange is the New Black.

Where We Are On TV. GLAAD

Another trend – an increase in the number of Afro-American characters – is connected to a wide range of fortunate shows with multiple black cast members. For instance, Taraji P. Henson starring at Empire won her first Golden Globe for the Best Actress role in a TV drama (she was previously nominated for an Oscar for the role in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button). Still, it should be mentioned that LGBTQ characters stay overpoweringly white, which intersectional feminists wouldn’t approve of.

Where We Are On TV. GLAAD

Not only gender matters

The report also examined regular disabled characters with certain disabilities and found another record. There are already 15 characters, which is more than the past year. Characters included to the list are those living with usually non-distinguishable disabilities as cancer or HIV/Aids. Five of those characters appear on Fox, three of them are on Empire’s cast alone. This is deadly important taking into account pressing questions of discrimination in society.

Ableism (aka disability discrimination, and handicapism) is about social prejudice against people with certain disabilities (whether it be mental or physical ones). Or else, it is “discrimination in favour of able-bodied people”, if we check the Oxford English Dictionary. It regards people as pre-defined by their (dis-)abilities and inferior to the “normal”. There are ableist words like dumb or crazy, as they can be insulting to mutes and to people having psychological issues respectively.

Lookism is another word for discrimination or prejudice against people based on their physical appearance and gender expectations. Like in the previous case, it includes all the one-sided notions or stereotypes on a person because of how they look. Funnily enough, lookism is aimed at both “beautiful” and “ugly”, as it is prejudice against a person for the way they appear in society. One can received a mark “denied” on their credit application or stay unemployed because of the “lookist” biases of the other party.

All in all, it seems there is a certain improvement in making equality real, as it is proclaimed on the landing page of Equality Now. We’ve already seen a bright example of the project for sharing stories of LGBTQ community. There is no fear in being yourself. You don’t need to hide – the increased media representation of LGBTQ confirms it. And it gives hope for the better world.

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