When it comes to representation, the LGBTQ community shouldn’t have to choose between quality and quantity. But, according to GLAAD's annual report on representation in TV, this is often the case. While a few shows are getting it right in 2018, plenty are falling back on tired tropes and stereotypes. “It is no longer enough just to have an LGBTQ character present to win LGBTQ audience’s attention, there needs to be nuance and depth to their story and they should reflect the full diversity of our community," GLAAD Present and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
For this study, GLAAD looked at "original, scripted series" on broadcast, cable, and major streaming services, counting the number of significant queer characters from a pool of 857 broadcast roles. The CW (with Riverdale and Jane the Virgin) led the way in broadcast representation, while Netflix ( with Orange is the New Black) leads the way in streaming.
Overall, LGBTQ characters made up 8.8% of recurring TV characters, and GLAAD hopes to have this number up to 10% in the next year — with a few requirements, like more complex narratives, and a greater emphasis on intersectionality. Shows like Empire, Shadowhunters, and Black-ish are doing their part to lead that change with characters that are LGBTQ people of color. Due to these shows, broadcast television is leading the way in terms of intersectional representation. Other mediums, however, are still predominantly white.
Transgender characters are also breaking away from stereotypes. Recently, the CW series Supergirl introduced the first transgender superhero, and the FX series Pose starred four trans women of color. Series like Pose show the importance of having representation behind-the-scenes as well; with a team of trans directors, writers, and producers, the series was able to go beyond typical trans narratives.
And finally, it's time to say goodbye to the sassy gay best friend for good. Comedy shows led the way in representation this year, proving that LGBTQ characters can be funny and charming without resorting to a single stereotype. Shows like Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine gave us witty and unique LGBTQ characters. Cisgender gay men remain the most represented group, but the number of bisexual and lesbian characters did increase a little this year. From spooky seasonal shows like the Charmed reboot and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to popular dramas like How To Get Away With Murder, queer characters have range than ever.
“The kind of stories being told matter just as much as the numbers," GLAAD study concludes. With favourites returning for new seasons and shows like Netflix's Super Drag set to premiere in 2019, complex LGBTQ stories will only continue to evolve.