Media portrayal of LGBT people
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The media portrayal of LGBT people refers to the varying and evolving ways in which the media depicts or portrays the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The acronym LGBT is commonly used in North America and other English-speaking countries; it attempts to include all sexual orientations and variations represented in shorthand. Although the acronym originated in North America, media representation of the LGBT community may be examined on a global scale, with varying degrees of tolerance.
Historically, the portrayal of the LGBT community in media has been negative, reflecting the intolerance for the LGBT community seen in cultures; however, from the 1990s to present day, there has been an increase in the depictions of LGBT individuals, issues, and concerns within mainstream media in North America. The LGBT community has taken an increasingly proactive stand in defining its own culture with a primary goal of achieving an affirmative visibility in mainstream media. This positive portrayal or increased presence of the LGBT community in media has served to increase acceptance and support for the LGBT community, establish the LGBT community as a norm, and provide information on the topic. Gwendolyn Audrey Foster admits, "We may still live in a world of white dominance and heterocentrism, but I think we can agree that we are in the midst of postmodern destabilizing forces when it comes to sexuality and race."
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 News coverage of LGBT events
- 4 Marketing to the LGBT community
- 5 Media representations of non-binary gendered individuals
- 6 History of queer music
- 7 Asexuality in television
- 8 Media portrayal of LGBT people of color
- 9 Breakdown of LGBT representation
- 10 LGBT representation in children's media
- 11 Social acceptance
- 12 Psychology of LGBT people relating to their community
- 13 Media portrayal and social change
- 14 LGBT media advocacy organizations
- 15 See also
- 16 References
Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are generally indistinguishable from their straight or cisgender counterparts, media depictions of LGBT individuals often represent them as visibly and behaviorally different. For example, in many forms of popular entertainment, gay men are portrayed as promiscuous, flashy, and bold, while the reverse is often true of lesbian portrayals. Media representations of bisexual and transgender people tend to either be completely absent, or depicted as morally corrupt or mentally unstable. Similar to race-, religion-, and class-based caricatures, these stereotypical representations vilify or make light of marginalized and misunderstood groups.
Gay and lesbian families are commonly misrepresented in media because society frequently equates sexual orientation with the ability to reproduce. For example, gay and lesbian characters are rarely the main character in movies; they frequently play the role of stereotyped supporting characters or portrayed as a victim or villain.
There is currently a widespread view that reference to gay people should be omitted from child-related entertainment. When such references do occur they almost invariably generate controversy. In 1997, when American comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet on her popular sitcom, many sponsors, such as the Wendy's fast food chain, pulled their advertising.
Media depictions have both benefited and disadvantaged the LGBT community. Milestones to the gay community such as the book Vice Versa and Ellen DeGeneres coming out has helped other LGBT come out and feel better about being themselves.
Despite the stereotypical depictions of gay people, the media has at times promoted acceptance of them with television shows such as Will and Grace and Queer Eye. This increased publicity reflects the coming-out movement of the LGBT community. As more celebrities come out, more gay-friendly shows develop, such as the 2004 show The L Word. With the popularity of gay television shows, music artists and gay fashion, Western culture has had to open its eyes to the gay community.
This new acceptance from the media can partially be explained by the contact hypothesis, aka intergroup contact theory. With more shows promoting the acceptance of gays, people are able to view a more correct depiction of the LGBT community.
In the United States, gay people are frequently used as a symbol of social decadence by celebrity evangelists and by organizations such as Focus on the Family.
LGBT in media are highly misrepresented. It usually categorizes all of the LGBT people into just lesbian and gay. Then, people have created stereotypes for lesbian and gay characters. This action contradicts the whole purpose of the fictional characters of LGBT people. It may allow some people to understand that LGBT people are more common than they realize; however, it still reinforces stereotypes and negative stigmas.
Early 20th century
The first representation of same-sex interactions was in 1895 with Edison Short's silent film The Gay Brothers. Through the early twentieth century, homosexuality was uncommon, however, when represented it was used as a comic devise; for example Sissy Man in Stan Laurel's silent film The Soilers in 1923.
The 1930s brought a new increased awareness and presence of LGBT people in media. In 1934, the strengthening of the Production Code was created in attempt to reduce the negative portrayals of homosexuality in media; however, this made little headway in the movement. Throughout the 1930s–1960s, an increase in the presence of Catholic-based morality was seen, and portrayals (positive or negative) were highly censored or removed. Many negative sub-contexts remained regarding homosexuality, such as in Alfred Hitchcock's films, whose villains used an implication of homosexuality to heighten evilness and alienation.
In news media, homosexuality was rarely explicitly mentioned, and it was often portrayed as a sickness, perversion or crime.
Stonewall Riots (1960s)–1980s
In 1969, a series of violent riots in New York called the Stonewall Riots took place as a resistance to the discrimination the LGBT community faced. This marked the beginning of the modern LGBT movement that had taken an increasingly proactive stand in defining the LGBT community culture, specifically in mainstream media. LGBT activists began confronting repressive laws, police harassment, and discrimination. These demands for equal protection began to be viewed as legitimate news, but the legitimacy of the demands were still viewed as questionable.
LGBT political activist began to pressure Hollywood to end its consistent negative portrayals of homosexuality in media. Responding to the movement, growing visibility in films began to emerge. However, themes of the reality for LGBT people were minimized or totally obscured.
In news, the emergence of more explicit and serious segments on the LGBT community began to emerge. In 1967, CBC released a news segment on homosexuality. This segment, however, was a compilation of negative stereotypes of gay men. The 1970s marked an increase in visibility for the LGBT community in media with the 1972 ABC show That Certain Summer. This show was about a gay man raising his family, and although it did not show any explicit relations between the men, it contained no negative stereotypes.
Responding to the LGBT efforts for an increased positive presence and to end homophobic portrayals of homosexuality in media lead to the National Association of Broadcasters Code Authority agreeing to adopt the NAB Code to guarantee that the LGBT community would be fairly treated in media. Although not a binding agreement, networks began to take extra cautions and consult LGBT communities before running programs portraying homosexuality. This led to the presence of LGBT characters beginning in prime time television, although in minimal amounts or in episodes that concentrated on homosexuality. Nevertheless, such presentations were greeted as signs of greater social acceptance.
1980s and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic
With the emergence of the AIDS epidemic and its implicit relation to gay men, media outlets varied on their coverage, portrayal and acceptance of the LGBT community. The Moral Majority, the Coalition for Better Television, and the American Family Association began to organize boycotts against sponsors of television programs that showed homosexuals in what they viewed as a positive light.
Media coverage of LGBT community varied during the 1980s depending on the location and therefore the nature of the market and management of the organization. For example, in San Francisco, The San Francisco Chronicle hired an openly gay reporter and ran detailed stories on LGBT topics. This is in contrast to The New York Times which refused to use the word "gay" in its writing, preferring to use the term "homosexual," as it was perceived as a more clinical term, and continued to limit its coverage of LGBT issues, in both verbal and visual form.
The AIDS epidemic forced mainstream media to acknowledge the large existence of the LGBT community, and coverage increased. News coverage began to distinguish between "innocent" victims who had not acquired AIDS through homosexual contact and "guilty" victims who had. This coverage portrayed the LGBT community in a negative light and can be seen as a step back in the movement for equality. However, the AIDS epidemic did force the media to regard the LGBT community in a more serious light. It also resulted in an increase in education regarding LGBT people and issues; editors and reporters began to learn more about the LGBT community and therefore became more sensitized to the tone in which they reported on homosexual issues. Furthermore, the increase in contact with the LGBT community lead to a greater emergence of LGBT figures in media as contacts were made during reports of the AIDS epidemic, as well as those speaking out and those who had contracted the virus themselves. This increase in contact led to an awareness of how homophobia was woven into the government's media responses to the AIDS epidemic and this paved the way for future movements.
News coverage of LGBT events
Much of the negative media that surrounds the gay community have to do with pride parades that turn into drag shows or riots. There is very little positive media coverage. Some examples of positive coverage are marches for same-sex marriage and shows like Ellen and RuPaul's Drag Race. Both shows express successful LGBT. Opposition argues that such degrees of sexuality and nudity in public is not appropriate, although lately more shows show lesbian and gay sexuality. Generally, news stories have typically identified the opposition to these demonstrations as led by Christian conservatives or strong believers of the Islamic religion and not political figures. Many of these views against the LGBT community are symbolic racism. People argue against their nudity in public because it violates their traditional values.
Media are designed to be a reflection of society and different communities. Mainstream media channels like CBS are the most watched and a highly underrepresented media outlet for the LGBT people. Media is a business that requires an audience and ratings. To achieve this, people who they feel will be watching are targeted. People of color are becoming leaders, but major media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, and TV, are refusing to acknowledge their existence. Historically, news coverage has only covered homonormative LGBT people. Homonormative is the replication of a normative heterosexual lifestyle excluding sexuality. Queer Nation is a group that fights for the rights of LGBT people. They staged a kiss in where they had different people of LGBT kiss in the mall in front of cameras. However, news media channels chose to only cover people of LGBT that were white and middle class.
Marketing to the LGBT community
The gay community has been targeted by marketers who view LGBT people as an untapped source of discretionary spending, as many couples have two income streams and no children. As a result, companies are advertising more and more to the gay community, and LGBT activists use advertisement slogans to promote gay community views. Subaru marketed its "Forester" and "Outback" models with the slogan "It's not a choice. It's the way we're built" which was later used in eight United States cities on streets or in gay rights events. This statement has been used for years by the LGBT community before the company decided to use the slogan.
Media representations of non-binary gendered individuals
Recognition of non-binary gender in media is very rare, despite the fact that many social media sites allow users to self-identify as non-binary. For example, the new gender options rolled out by Facebook during early 2014 include many different options for non-binary gendered individuals. However, allowing for self-identification does not necessarily equate to representation., as there are very few representations of individuals with non-binary gender in the media today. In fact, a large deal of non-binary gender media representation happens in communities made by and for people with non-binary gender, and contain largely self-made content, often about the content-maker.
The only instance of a non-binary identified person that has become significant in the mainstream media is the video Break Free, created by Ruby Rose. As of November 20, 2014, the video had garnered 1,833,889 views. Additionally, there was a Buzzfeed article written about the video, which received widespread media attention. The original Facebook post on Ruby Rose's official Facebook page has received over 135,000 likes, and 182,000 shares as of November 2014. Activist Jeffrey Marsh has also made significant strides in genderqueer representation on the Vine social media platform.
A possible reason for there being very little representation of non-binary gendered individuals in the media is a lack of repetition. According to Judith Butler's conceptualization of gender as performative, and her theory of gender performativity, we can understand that repeated instances of a concept, in this case, non-binary gender in the media, attribute legibility and coherence to that concept. Since there is a lack of repetition or multiple productions of representation of non-binary gender in the media, that absence will continue until such a time when there are more repeated representations of non-binary gender in the media. However, there are additional representations of non-binary gendered individuals coming to various media outlets. While still very few representations of non-binary gendered individuals exist in media, as both transgender and non-binary gendered individuals gain visibility and advance politically, further representation in media sources may quickly follow.
Unfortunately, as there has been little attention paid to representing non-binary gendered individuals in the media, there has also been little attention focused on recognizing or addressing that absence. There have been no scholarly articles written to date specifically addressing non-binary gender, and media coverage of non-binary gender has been extremely limited.
History of queer music
Queer music, or music that is either produced or sung by a LGBT individual or music that is sung about the LGBT experience, debuted in the 1920s blues era. In the beginning of queer music many songs discussed coming out, acceptance, Pride and Stonewall. In the 70s, it made a switch to talking about people like Anita Bryant, Harvey Milk and Dan White. With the rise of the AIDS epidemic, many of the songs in the 80s and 90s addressed the emotional (often anger, and grief), political and social aspects of the AIDs crisis.
In 1935, Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan) released her song "B.D. Woman Blues" (the B.D. standing for Bull Daggers). Frankie "half-Pint" Jackson, another blues artist of this time, was known for singing as a female impersonator and in 1929 released a song titled "My Daddy Rocks Me With One Steady Roll". This period was also times for "cross-vocals", which are songs intended to be sung by a woman but are sung by men instead, without changing pronouns. This came about in the 20s and 30s when music producers would not allow singers to change a song's wording. This led to men singing about men and subsequently women singing about women without public scrutiny, because they were aware of the restrictions placed on the singers by the music producers. (An example of "cross-vocals" would be Bing Crosby and his recording of "Ain't No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears".) Also in the late 1920s and 1930s was The Pansy Craze. This was when openly gay performers suddenly became popular in major city nightclubs. Two of the most popular performers to emerge from this craze were Jean Malin, who sang "I'd Rather Be Spanish Than Mannish" and Bruz Fletcher in 1937 with "She's My Most Intimate Friend".
Between the 30s and the 60s, Ray Bourbon was one of the most well-known female impersonators, in 1956 Ray changed his name to Rae Bourbon and released and album titled "Let Me Tell You About My Operation", in response to Christine Jorgensen's famous sex change which had been dominating the news. In the early 1960s Camp Records released two albums which featured artists like Sandy Beech, Max Minty & the Gay Blades, and a song by Byrd E Bath called "Homer the Happy Little Homo". In response to this album, Teddy & Darrel released an LP called "These Are the Hits, You Silly Savages" with the hope that they could use the sale records to track down homosexuals, however they were unable to do so because the sales were so spread out and diverse. In 1963 Jackie Shane released his song "Any Other Way" with the lyrics "tell her that I'm happy, tell her that I'm gay, tell her that I wouldn't have it, any other way" which reached #2 on the Canadian charts and in 1968 Minette was the first female impersonator to release an entire album which dealt with subjects such as the hippie movement, psychedelic drugs and Vietnam.
The 1970s was the birth of glam rock and the pop punk gay scene, which included artist like David Bowie. In 1971, Maxine Feldman wrote a song called "Stonewall Nation" after participating in her first gay march in Albany, New York and in 1972 she was the first openly lesbian to be elected as the delegate to a major national political convention. The 1970s also brought a lot of first for the Queer music scene. In 1973, "Lavender Country" was the first openly gay country album (20 years later, "Out in the Country" by Doug Stevens & the Outband was the second). Also in 1973, the first openly gay rock albums was produced by Chris Robison and his Many Hand Band, which included the song "Lookin' for a Boy Tonight", and Alix Dobkin formed her own record label called Women's Wax Words. She then went on to produce the album "Lavender Jane Loves Women", which was the first album to be produced, financed, performed, and engineered entirely by lesbians. Then, in 1974, Steven Grossman became the first artist to have a lyrically gay album, titled "Caravan Tonight" released by the major record label called Mercury. This album featured the song "Out" and was the first album with openly gay lyrics to be produced by a major record label. Finally, in 1977, Olivia Records released the first various artist album that featured solely lesbian performers. This album was called "Lesbian Concentrate" and was produced in reaction to the bigotry of Anita Bryant and her anti-LGBT rights crusade.
In 1981, Rough Trade, a band led by Carole Pope, reached the Top 20 in Canada with their song "High School Confidential"; this is one of the first openly lesbian songs to reach the charts. That same year, Canadian artist David Sereda released his song "Underage Blues", which discusses what it is like to be a gay teenager. In 1983, La Cage aux Folles became the first musical with an openly gay central plot to be a big hit and featured the song "I Am What I Am". In 1984, one of the earliest songs addressing AIDS was released by Automatic Pilot, a San Francisco-based group. The song was called "Safe Living in Dangerous Time". Although the song was recorded in 1984, the album was never released until 2005 because multiple group members died due to the AIDS epidemic. Also from LA came the rapping group Age of Consent, which was one of the first groups to ever have lyrically gay raps. One of their songs, called "History Rap", tells the story of the Stonewall Riots. In 1985, a rare performance by Christine Jorgensen, an entertainer who was known for having a sex change in the 1950s, was recorded.
From the 1990s onwards, there appeared many queer singers, songwriters and musicians that belong to many genres. One example of a well-known queer artist is Meshell Ndegeocello, who entered the hip-hop scene in the 1990s. During this time Bill Clinton was elected president, and the gay and lesbian movement was still in full force from collective organization against AIDS in the 80s. Her song "Leviticus: Faggot" talks about the sexist and misogynist violence experienced by young, black, gay men due to their identities. Some other more recent artists include Against Me! with their song "Transgender Dysphoria Blues", ONSIND, Fridge Scum and Spoonboy.
Asexuality in television
Asexuality receives sparse attention in the media. It is often viewed as a "lack" of something, which is difficult to actively portray on screen. Additionally, asexuality has yet to be fully recognized as a legitimate sexual orientation. Therefore, when it does get representation in the media, asexual characters are often not the main characters or the focus of story lines, and/or tend to be framed around a mindset of needing to be fixed or changed. An example of this type of portrayal occurs in an episode of the popular TV show House, M.D. In the Season 8 episode "Better Half", a couple declare themselves happily asexual. However, the main character House's immediate reaction to their statement is "there must be some medical cause". He then sets out to prove that there is no way they can be asexual by choice. House eventually discovers a brain tumor in the husband that has been suppressing his sexuality. When this is revealed, his wife then admits that she said she was asexual purely to be with her husband, and that before they met she had enjoyed sexual encounters.
The Netflix animated television series Bojack Horseman has received acclaim from the ace community for its portrayal and discussion of asexual topics through the character of Todd Chavez, a main character, who comes out as asexual in the season 3 finale. In the fourth season, he discovers a group of people who also identify as asexual who help him learn more about his asexuality.
Calls for stronger asexual representation began upon the release of The CW's Riverdale, when the show's writers made the decision to exclude the asexuality of the character Jughead, canonically asexual in the Archie comics upon which the show is based, despite encouragements from actor Cole Sprouse to retain the character's sexual identification. The show went on to feature a homosexual character and a bisexual character, furthering evidence that Jughead's asexuality was intentionally unacknowledged by the writers as an LGBT identity.
Media portrayal of LGBT people of color
Overwhelmingly, the portrayal of the LGBT community in the American media centers on white LGBTs and their experiences. LGBT persons of color are severely underrepresented in the media in comparison to their actual population within the community.
Most LGBT characters who appear in mainstream media are Caucasian. LGBT people of color are often misrepresented and underrepresented in the media. Media representations of LGBT characters are disproportionately white. In GLAAD's annual "We are on TV" report, it was found that out of the 813 broadcast network's series regular characters, only 13% are black, 8% Latino/Latina, 4% Asian, and 2% multi-racial. Out of the 74 LGBT-identified characters on mainstream broadcast networks, only 11% are black, 11% Latina/Latino, and 5% Asian. People of color therefore make up 27% of characters and 34% of LGBT characters. What people see on television are white stories and experiences. "Media is indeed a powerful way to construct, modify, and spread cultural beliefs. Television drama is a form of media, which gets into our households, almost without us realizing it and informs us, the viewers, of a series of representations and values that are ingrained in Western society and, at the same time, are either reinforced or undermined within that cultural representation, in this case, television drama."
"Popular television shows including Will & Grace, Sex and the City, Brothers and Sisters, and Modern Family routinely depict gay men. Yet the common characteristic among most televisual representations of gay men is that they are usually white." Having both a queer and black or non-white character is creating multi-faceted "otherness", which is not normally represented on television. Additionally, while many shows depict LGBT people of color, they are often used as a plot device or in some type of trope. Santana Lopez, for example, from the teenage dramedy Glee, is a queer woman of color; however, she is often characterized as a Latina fetish and over-sexualized. In Season 6 of Glee, Santana Lopez marries Brittany Pierce, a white bisexual. Along with these two characters, Blaine Anderson and Kurt Hummel are two important LGBT characters in Glee. Darren Criss, who portrays Blaine, is half-Asian while Chris Colfer, who portrays Kurt, is white. In conjunction, Callie Torres, who was one of the first bisexual Latina characters on mainstream television, was first depicted as a "slut", and this Latina stereotype was used as much of her single plot-device.
Moreover, non-white LGBT characters are often depicted as "race neutral". For example, on the ABC Family show, GRΣΣK, Calvin Owens is openly gay and many of his storylines, struggles, and plots revolve around his self-identification as LGBT. However, while being physically African-American, it is never mentioned in the show, and he is never seen as "explicitly black".
As queer politics continue to become a defining part of the decade, television continues to reflect that. Starting with hits like Modern Family, gay homonormativity is becoming a mainstay on broadcast television. There has been a cultural shift from white, gay men being depicted as non-monogamous sex-seekers, stemming from the AIDS epidemic to being "just like everyone else" in their quest to be fathers. This Hollywood trend, while expanding LGBT representations on TV, is really only giving a single-story to the LGBT community and completely neglecting other LGBT stories.
A recent exception to the lack of LGBT people of color on television represented in a realistic, non-fetish or race-neutral way, is the ABC Family show, The Fosters. The Fosters depicts a blended family of one biological child, two adopted children, and two foster children being raised by a lesbian, multi-racial couple. Two of the children are Latino and have struggles and storylines relating to that. The couple, around whom the show is based, also struggles with race as source of conflict on top of their LGBT storyline.
In January 2015, GLAAD announced nominations for the 26th annual Media Awards. Many of these nominees included LGBT people of color. There have also been several series and shows that have started to represent this topic in a more "fair, accurate and inclusive" way. There is also support from well-known actors such as Channing Tatum, who will be presenting the award to the winner of the 26th annual Media Awards.
Breakdown of LGBT representation
Over the past five years, there has been an increase in the number of regular and recurring LGBT characters in mainstream American media. Each population has experienced general growth in representation, some more than others. Gay characters are the most frequently depicted of the LGBT community by a wide margin, followed by lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters. However, heading into the new season, this trend will change in cable television with the number of bisexual identifying characters surpassing the number of lesbian characters for the first time. Additionally, the transgender community is the only one of the four to lose representation in media, declining from 2013 to 2014 on cable networks while losing representation entirely on broadcast networks. In terms of gender identity, a majority of the LGBT characters in media are male, though female characters follow within a close margin. Only one percent of characters identified as FtM (female-to-male transgender).
Every year GLAAD releases a report, entitled Where We Are on TV, with percentages of expected regular and recurring LGBT characters on broadcast and cable, and the previous few years streaming and television. Throughout the past six years, the highest percentage or representation of LGBT characters in mainstream television, both broadcast and cable, was gay men.
A few notable LGBTQ characters currently on television are Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family, Will Truman and Jack McFarland on Will & Grace, Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars, Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl, Cosima Niehaus and Delphine Cormier on Orphan Black, Waverly Earp and Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp, Nomi Marks, Amanita Caplan, Lito Rodriguez, and Hernando on Sense8, Clarke and Lexa on The 100, Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane on The Shadowhunters, Kat Edison and Adena El Amin on The Bold Type, Elena Alvarez on One Day at a Time, Kenny O'Neal on The Real O'Neals, Stef and Lena Adams Foster on The Fosters, Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins on Grey's Anatomy, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Poussey Washington, Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren, Nicky Nichols and Alex Vause on Orange is the New Black.
A more complete list of characters can be found on the List of LGBT characters in television and radio page. A more complete list of dramatic television shows can be found on the List of dramatic television series with LGBT characters page.
|Year||Lesbian||Gay||Bisexual Women||Bisexual Men||Transgender Women||Transgender Men||Expected Series Regular LGBT Characters||Expected Recurring LGBT Characters|
|2012–2013||10||30||7||2||1||0||31 or 4.4% of all characters||19|
|2013–2014||14||21||8||2||1||0||26 or 3.3% of all characters||20|
|2014–2015||18||35||10||2||0||0||32 or 3.9% of all characters||33|
|2015–2016||23||33||12||2||0||0||35 or 4.0% of all characters||35|
|2016–2017||12||35||16||5||3||0||43 or 4.8% of all characters||28|
|Year||Lesbian||Gay||Bisexual Women||Bisexual Men||Transgender Women||Transgender Men||Expected Series Regular LGBT Characters||Expected Recurring LGBT Characters|
Starting in the 2015–2016 season, GLAAD started including original content created on the streaming sites Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix in the Where We Are On TV Annual Report.
|Year||Lesbian||Gay||Bisexual Women||Bisexual Men||Transgender Women||Transgender Men||Expected Series Regular LGBT Characters||Expected Recurring LGBT Characters|
In Will & Grace, Will Truman is presented as "straight passing" gay man who fit in more with heteronormative society. Will's friend Jack, on the other hand, was used as comic relief and was presented as flamboyant and non threatening. He was represented the other stereotypical gay character and the opposite of Will. Because of Will & Grace, there are now more gay characters on television. Will & Grace also showed a wider audience that television shows with gay characters do not have to be all about the gay community, but can deal with more mainstream problems such as romance and fights with friends. Now, more television shows have gay characters without focusing on their sexuality, but rather making it another facet of the character such as their hair eye color or age.
Starting in 2013, GLAAD started releasing a Studio Responsibility Index at the beginning of each year which reported on the quality, quantity, and diversity of LGBT characters in films released by 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, the Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers the previous year.
In 2012 there were 14 films out of 101 films with lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters and no films with transgender characters. Out of the 14 films, only 4 contained LGBT characters as major characters instead of minor.
In 2013 there were 17 films out of 102 releases with identifiable LGBT characters. This year, Lionsgate Entertainment was also included in the statistics. Most of the LGBT characters were found in comedies.
In 2014 there were 20 films out of the 114 releases tracked by GLAAD. The depictions were mostly minor roles and regarded as stereotypes. Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics were also tracked this year for LGBT representation. There were 28 LGBT characters in mainstream films this year. There were no identifiable transgender characters in the films tracked this year.
In 2015 there were 22 films out of the 126 released with identifiable LGBT characters. There was only one film with a transgender character. There were 47 LGBT characters, an increase from the previous year.
A few of the most notable LGBTQ films are Brokeback Mountain, Carol, Boys Don't Cry, Blue is the Warmest Color, Paris is Burning, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Kids are All Right, Milk, Victor/Victoria, Rent, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
LGBT representation in children's media
There have been increased occurrences of LGBT characters and themes in children's shows across channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. Inclusion of these themes prompted the Parent's Television Council to release a report ranking Nick at Night and Disney Channel near-perfect in terms of child-appropriateness and rating accountability, whereas TNT's Cartoon Network had not only more adult themes, but also less accountability via S, L, V, D content designations. Although not exclusively for children, "Animation has a long history of flirting with queerness... mostly through sissy characters and otherwise effeminate men... Depictions of female queerness are far rarer and more benign." Since 2010, cartoons have related to these general trends, particularly The Legend of Korra, SheZow, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe.
In 2008–2015, The Girl Bunnies by Françoise Doherty became the first children's animated series to have all of its lead characters LGBTQ. These leads include lesbian and transgender children. The 4 short musical animated films have screened in 21 countries and have garnered awards in Montreal Canada and in Paris France.
The first example is Nickelodeon's original show, The Legend of Korra, the last five episodes of which were only available online. Reaching towards adult audiences, it tells "some of the darkest, most mature stories ever committed to screen by an animated program". The show ends with main characters Korra and Asami deciding to go "on vacation" to the spirit world together, "while romantic music plays". They walk away holding hands, then stand facing each other in a "climactic spirit portal moment" that did much more than "denote mere friendship". This "groundbreaking... earth-bending" shot "changed the face of TV". Writer of the series, Mike Dimartino, confirmed that Korra and Asami did in fact have romantic feelings for each other. "The message sent is that queer people are no less wholesome, no less natural, no more implicitly or explicitly sexual, and no more dangerous for kids to see than straight people." Fans of the show have even inserted a kiss animation to the final seconds.
"Other examples include the 2012–2013 season of "gender-bending" Australian cartoon series SheZow." SheZow, much like superhero precursor Captain Marvel (or Shazam!) is a crime-fighter with a magic ring. Except it's a woman's ring, so it turns Guy, a 12-year-old boy (not his twin sister Kelly, president of the SheZow fanclub) into a female superhero. A Christian group, One Million Moms protested, "The media is determined to pollute the minds of our children... desensitizing them through a cartoon program... [whose] superhero represents both genders by cross-dressing and being transgendered." However, show creator Obie Scott Wade called it a show about "responsibility" and "not so much about gender", stating "Guy does learn many things about himself by becoming SheZow... as an ordinary slacker who is suddenly forced to save the world, but with a unique story element that adds a lot of comedy." Guy does not "identify as transexual [sic]", and whether or not children perceive him as such, "from an adult perspective... secret identities were and still are, a huge part of what it meant to be a lesbian, gay, bi or transgender person."
Another show with very strong LGBTQ themes would be Cartoon Network's Steven Universe created by Rebecca Sugar. Steven Universe has been called "one of the most unabashedly queer shows on TV" by The Guardian. According to Erik Adams "gender is at the forefront of... Steven Universe" but there are plenty of other queer themes within the series as well. In the episode "Alone Together" the main character Steven and his friend Connie fuse to become Stevonnie. When asked about the gender of the character Stevonnie, Sugar replied that "Stevonnie is an experience, the living relationship between Steven and Connie." She goes on to state that "Stevonnie challenges gender norms as an individual, but also serves as a metaphor for all the terrifying firsts in a first relationship." There are many more queer themes that arc across many episodes as well such as the romantic relationship between Ruby and Sapphire as well as the unrequited love Pearl had for Rose.
Cartoon Network's popular television show Adventure Time, created by Pendleton Ward, is another example of children's media with queer themes. One way that this show represents the LGBTQ community is through its deconstruction of heteronormativity. Australian media commentator Emma Jane says that Adventure Time is "a program which subverts many traditional gender-related paradigms." Jane also discusses the idea of gender fluidity within the show by pointing out characters that lack a fixed gender (i.e., BMO or Gunther) as well as characters possessing many traits that are traditionally gendered (i.e., eyelashes and hair) but those traits not having any bearing on their actual gender.
In 2017, Disney Channel's Andi Mack made history with the depiction of the character Cyrus Goodman (portrayed by Joshua Rush), making him Disney Channel's first ever character to come out as gay. On February 9th, 2019, "Andi Mack" yet again made television history when Cyrus came out to his male best friend, Jonah Beck (Asher Angel), saying "I'm gay", making him the first Disney character to ever use the word "gay".
As stated by Jason Jacobs, queer people are demanding for culture to be more accepting of the community. In an attempt, shows such as Glee, are created where most of the characters have an identity that marginalizes them in some way. Some of the characters are gay, lesbian, disabled, and or belong to some other minority group. However, within these characters, there are homonormative aspects. The goal is for the disabled and minority characters to feel empowered about their differences and strive to be "normal". This normative behavior is exhibited through stereotypical perceptions of LGBT people, such as when gay men shop and spend uncontrollably when they are down.
Additionally, there is increasing focus on queer baiting within mainstream television, where shows court the LGBT "pink money" with heavy use of subtext to imply a queer pairing, but never following through with the subtext and risking alienating their more conservative-minded audiences.
The act of 'coming out' or publicly making everyone aware of your sexual orientation can be complicated for some people. The struggles that some LGBT people must face while coming out is different from person to person. It is imperative to attempt to relate to these individual's backgrounds while trying to understand them. "Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Generational Factors Associated with the Coming-out Process Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Individuals" clearly identifies the processes some people go through.
São Paulo speaks about a cities effort to decrease the discrimination against gay pride by planning to create new laws protecting people from the negativity of it all. It is said that they also plan to create a gay museum dedicated to all of those who have put in efforts for equal rights for the LGBT community. This new law is said to be taking place in Brazil, with the hopes that many will follow in their lead. Paulo says, "The activists and parade organizers said a law that would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is overdue in Brazil".
Psychology of LGBT people relating to their community
There is still much to learn about the psychology of racial/ethnic minorities in the LGBT community; however, there is prior knowledge found through studies based on the micro-aggression that these people must face on a day-to-day basis. Relationships with these types of people can also face more difficulties in the community than that of a heterosexual couple. The American Psychological Association conducted these studies and they showed several instances where LGBT men scored higher than woman psychologically. Lesbians and gay men scored higher than bisexual women and men, and Asian Americans scored higher than African Americans and Latinos.
Although there are many negative consequences that arise from LGBT portrayal in media, there are some positive consequences as well. Seeing LGBTs in the media can bring about more acceptance of these people. This is because before LGBT people appeared in media, many people had no idea what they may be like. Because many LGBT people chose not to openly talk about themselves, their peers and families may either have no idea or a negative perception about what it is like to be a LGBT person. Thus, LGBT people may be misrepresented in the media.
Media portrayal of LGBT people has also been important in furthering activist movements for LGBT populations, especially where American history is concerned. LGBT people have recently gained more visibility for their positive contributions to movements for social change. For example, in the documentary United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, LGBT people of diverse backgrounds are recognized for their integral role in securing greater access to healthcare for those living with AIDS as well as national attention for a population largely ignored by the government and other important institutions.
The change in representation of racial diversity in the LGBT community is advancing towards a more equal standpoint. In the early stages of television there was hardly any media representation of people of color at all, let alone LGBT people of color. However, as media and its audience are evolving the willingness to show more racial diversity on a global scale. This attempt at equality is to make people of all gender, race, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation feel as though they are represented fairly and evenly. Specific steps taken towards this goal are the use of different diverse characters on television. As well as the diverse characters, GLAAD is also making it a point that LGBT people of different races can have professions like doctors, teachers, etc. This takes away the single focus on their sexual preference or race etc., and displays the complexity of these characters as they would with any straight or white or middle class person.
LGBT media advocacy organizations
Many LGBT organizations exist to represent and defend the gay community. For example, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in the United States and Stonewall in the UK work with the media to help portray fair and accurate images of the gay community. There are many other LGBT advocacy organizations in the United States that are all working for the same cause, equality.
- List of media portrayals of bisexuality
- List of transgender characters in film and television
- Media portrayal of lesbianism
- Media portrayals of transgender people
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