GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV report, which tracks the number of LGBTQ characters on television, shows that this year was one of the best.
The organization has been keeping track for over 20 years and this year received high marks, however, television still has a long way to go. Of regular characters on broadcast television, only 43 out of 895 were gay, lesbian, or bisexual, a record high. ABC had the highest percentage, followed by FOX, The CW, NBC, and CBS, respectively.
Generally, LGBTQ representation is better on streaming and cable services, with 65 regular LGBTQ characters on services like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix, and 142 regular and recurring characters on cable. There were also slightly more queer and trans people represented.
Despite the record – but still dismal – numbers, LGBTQ characters receive problematic story lines. GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis points out the “Bury Your Gays” trope is still the most popular plot line for LGBTQ characters, which is when a show uses a queer character for the growth of another, usually straight character, then kills them off.
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Most of the deaths are really unnecessary. The report points out that 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters have died on television since the beginning of 2016.
“Most of these deaths served no other purpose than to further the narrative of a more central (and often straight, cisgender) character,” said Ellis. “When there are so few lesbian and bisexual women on television, the decision to kill these characters in droves sends a toxic message about the worth of queer female stories.”
It’s great to see television becoming more inclusive and while viewing these characters on-screen is important, better story lines are necessary. Using a queer character to show the growth of another character and then killing them off proves that there’s still work that needs to be done. LGBTQ characters deserve stronger and better stories.