November 3, 2016


Record Representation for Black, LGBTQ & Disabled Characters on TV This Year

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

There have been major strides for minorities on TV these days—which is great!—but there's loads of progress to made after dissecting GLAAD's annual "Where We Are on TV" report, which analyzes how diversity is represented on television.

According to the report of the 2016-2017 broadcast schedule, shows like Transparent, Orange Is the New Black and Queen Sugar are helping boost the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters on U.S. television. The report found a record-breaking 278 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters across all shows. The number of transgender characters doubled to 16 this year, a new high. GLAAD-approved Fuse shows like Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce and Transcendent also star a large amount of LGBTQ characters.

Meanwhile, another record-high sees 20 percent of all series regulars being black, in part thanks to hit shows like Empire, Luke Cage, Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder. But the report notes that black women remain underrepresented at just 38 percent of that total.

There is also a record high of regular characters with disabilities on broadcast TV (1.7 percent), thanks to shows like Speechless and NCIS: New Orleans.

While a lot of this sounds great, there are some negatives that need to be worked on as GLAAD points out.

Women remain underrepresented on television as only 44 percent of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming, which is an increase of 1 percent from the 2015-2016 season. Women make up 51 precent of the Earth's real-life, non-television population. Meanwhile, the percentage of Hispanic and Latinx regular characters rose to a new high of 8 percent, but that still misrepresents that Hispanic and Latinx people make up 17 percent of the American population.

GLAAD added that some some TV characters and storylines still portrayed the LGBTQ community in a negative or stereotypical way, in particular mentioning many bisexual characters are portrayed in ways that "all [feed] into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people." They add that television is far ahead of the movie business when it comes to queer roles.

Another disappointing area is the remarkably high number of gay and lesbian characters being killed off in shows, enhancing the long-running "Bury Your Gays" trope where queer characters are commonly killed off to further the storylines of straight leads. GLAAD says more than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted TV since the beginning of 2016—most of their deaths being violent—which "sends a dangerous message to audiences that LGBTQ people are secondary and disposable."

Read GLAAD's full report here. Below, watch a classic clip from Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce where our star takes over San Francisco's pride parade: