LGBTQ vis­i­bil­ity on TV hits a high

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Bill Keveney

Broad­cast net­works beat ex­pec­ta­tions, but ca­ble lags, GLAAD re­port card says.

More LGBTQ char­ac­ters than ever are pop­u­lat­ing TV shows, es­pe­cially on the broad­cast net­works and stream­ing ser­vices. But ca­ble hasn’t im­proved by that mea­sure in the past year, ac­cord­ing to GLAAD’s 2019-20 “Where We Are on TV” re­port.

The broad­cast net­works – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW – have reached another new high in LGBTQ rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the 2019-20 TV sea­son, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual GLAAD up­date re­leased Thurs­day.

The re­port found LGBTQ char­ac­ters are ex­pected to rep­re­sent 10.2% of se­ries reg­u­lars on prime-time scripted se­ries on the ma­jor net­works, a record high that bests last sea­son’s record of 8.8%. It sur­passes the 10% goal set by GLAAD, the world’s largest les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and queer (LGBTQ) me­dia ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, a year early.

“I am beyond thrilled, with a lot of op­ti­mism. That we ex­ceeded the tar­gets we set out is pretty phe­nom­e­nal,” GLAAD Pres­i­dent and CEO Sarah Kate El­lis tells USA TO­DAY. “It’s a real tes­ta­ment to Hol­ly­wood step­ping up (in rep­re­sent­ing) marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties when we have an ad­min­is­tra­tion that is try­ing to be di­vi­sive.”

The re­port’s cal­cu­la­tions are based on con­firmed cast­ing for cur­rent and up­com­ing se­ries sched­uled to air be­tween June 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020. (Shows that have not pre­miered are al­ways sub­ject to re­cast­ing, de­lays or can­cel­la­tion.)

Ama­zon, Hulu and Net­flix, the lead­ing stream­ing ser­vices, showed a 45%

in­crease in LGBTQ se­ries reg­u­lars (from 75 to 109), nearly match­ing the per­cent­age rise from a year ear­lier. The re­port does not pro­vide an over­all num­ber of se­ries reg­u­lars as it does for broad­cast shows.

Ca­ble was flat, mov­ing from 120 to 121 reg­u­lar char­ac­ters this sea­son, com­pared to a 17% in­crease in the 2018 re­port, al­though the can­cel­la­tion of a few shows with large num­bers of LGBTQ char­ac­ters, such as Freeform’s “Shad­owhunters,” can have a ma­jor im­pact on re­sults. Three ca­ble net­works ac­counted for 44% of ca­ble’s LGBTQ rep­re­sen­ta­tion: Show­time (38 reg­u­lar and re­cur­ring LGBTQ char­ac­ters), FX (31); and Freeform (26).

For broad­cast TV, the GLAAD re­port counts 90 LGBTQ se­ries reg­u­lars out of 879 char­ac­ters (with 30 more re­cur­ring char­ac­ters) on the broad­cast net­works.

CW recorded the high­est per­cent­age of LGBTQ se­ries reg­u­lars (15.4%), fol­lowed by NBC (12.5%), ABC (10.4%), Fox

(7.9%) and CBS (5.5%).

For the first time since GLAAD be­gan its re­search into rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the small screen 24 years ago, LGBTQ women out­num­ber men (53% to 47%) in broad­cast TV.

As part of the re­port, GLAAD is rais­ing the bar for broad­cast se­ries, ask­ing that LGBTQ char­ac­ters make up 20% of se­ries reg­u­lars by 2025. That per­cent­age re­flects a 2017 sur­vey by GLAAD and the Har­ris Poll that found 20% of 18to-34-year-olds iden­tify as LGBTQ.

El­lis says en­ter­tain­ment de­pic­tions are es­sen­tial to ac­cep­tance of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

“The way you change a heart and mind around some­one who’s LGBTQ is ei­ther you know some­one or see them on TV. When you learn their story, it hu­man­izes them,” she says.

El­lis hopes to see more pro­duc­ers echo four lead­ers in com­mit­ting to greater in­clu­sion: Greg Ber­lanti (CW’s su­per­hero shows), Ryan Murphy (FX’s “Pose” and “Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story”),

Shonda Rhimes (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Mur­der”) and Lena Waithe (Show­time’s “The Chi”).

“We need more peo­ple in­vested in telling di­verse and in­clu­sive sto­ries,” El­lis says.

Ad­di­tional find­ings:

❚ An in­creased racial di­ver­sity of LGBTQ char­ac­ters on broad­cast and ca­ble, but a de­cline in stream­ing. Of broad­cast’s 120 reg­u­lar and re­cur­ring char­ac­ters, 62 are peo­ple of color, mark­ing the sec­ond year they con­sti­tute a majority (52%). It’s the only TV plat­form to meet GLAAD’s goal of hav­ing peo­ple of color make up half of TV’s LGBTQ char­ac­ter pop­u­la­tion. Ca­ble hit 48% in that mea­sure­ment, with stream­ing at 41%.

❚ The num­ber of trans­gen­der char­ac­ters in­creased to 38 from 26. “We had a record year of trans rep­re­sen­ta­tion, (but) in all fair­ness, it wasn’t hard. It was so bad be­fore,” El­lis says.

❚ Shows fea­tured nine char­ac­ters who are HIV-pos­i­tive, up two from last year’s to­tal. How­ever, some of those char­ac­ters are in minis­eries or pro­grams in their fi­nal sea­son.

RUBY ROSE IN “BAT­WOMAN” BY CW

EL­IZ­A­BETH MOR­RIS/CW

Ruby Rose plays Kate Kane/ Bat­woman, a les­bian su­per­hero in CW’s “Bat­woman.”

MICHAEL PARMELEE/FX

Mj Ro­driguez, left, and Billy Porter, star in FX’s “Pose,” lead­ing in LGBTQ rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

ERIC MCCANDLESS/ABC

Cam (Eric Ston­estreet), left, and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Fer­gu­son) on “Modern Fam­ily.”

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