LOS ANGELES – The new TV season brings some disappointing news, a decrease in the number of scripted LGBT characters, according to GLAAD.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation today released the 16th annual “Where We Are On TV” report, a comprehensive review of scripted LGBT primetime characters in the 2011-12 television season.
After a significant increase last year, the number of regular LGBT characters on broadcast networks experienced a decrease while the overall LGBT character count remains steady on cable television.
“While the number of LGBT characters is down, some of the most popular shows with critics and viewers such as ‘Glee,’ ‘True Blood’ and ‘The Good Wife’ weave storylines about gay and lesbian characters into the fabric of the show,” said Mike Thompson, GLAAD’s acting president.
“Whether it’s the growing household of Mitchell and Cameron on ‘Modern Family’ or the recent wedding of Callie and Arizona on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ Americans expect to see the diversity of our country represented in their favorite programs and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
The report shows that LGBT characters still account for 2.9% of scripted series regulars in the 2011-12 broadcast television schedule, up from 1.1% in 2007 and 2.6% in 2008, but down from 3% in 2009 and 3.9% in 2010.
The number of scripted LGBT series regulars found on mainstream cable networks has also fallen slightly, from 40 in 2007, 32 in 2008, 25 in 2009, 35 in 2010 to 29 in the upcoming season. GLAAD counted 25 additional recurring characters on cable.
Fox is now the most inclusive broadcast television network based on these criteria, with 6.8% of regular characters being LGBT. In 2007, the “Where We Are on TV” report found zero LGBT series regulars on the network.
From research and information provided by the five broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW — GLAAD's "Where We Are On TV" study reviewed 91 scripted television programs scheduled to air this upcoming season, and counted a total of 647 series regular characters, 19 of which are LGBT. In addition, GLAAD counted 14 recurring LGBT characters on scripted primetime broadcast television this season.
Details on the upcoming 2011-12 season
• Fox leads the other broadcast networks with eight LGBT characters out of 117 total series regular characters; the highest number of LGBT characters of any broadcast network for the 2010-11 season.
• ABC is not in the lead for the first time in six years, and has significantly dropped in its percentage of regular LGBT characters, from 7.2% in 2010 to 3.4% for the upcoming season.
• NBC is in decline for the third year in a row, and will feature three (1.9%) regular LGBT characters out of 154.
• The CW has also taken a step back, and will feature only one LGBT series regular characters out of 67 (1.5%).
• CBS remains in last place for the fourth year in a row. Out of 134 series regular characters, only one will be LGBT (0.7%), but the network will include several LGBT recurring characters.
On mainstream cable networks, the number of announced LGBT series regular characters has declined to 28, but will feature an increased number of recurring characters for a total of 54 LGBT characters; a figure similar to last year’s count.
• For the second year in a row, HBO features the greatest number of LGBT characters on cable with 11; seven of which are series regulars.
• Also making a significant contribution to the count are Showtime with 10 characters, ABC Family, FX and TeenNick with four characters each, and TNT and BBC America with three.
• For the second year in a row, HBO’s “True Blood” is one of the most LGBT inclusive programs on television with six characters and is tied this year with the Showtime series “Shameless.”
Characters on LGBT-focused networks like Logo have traditionally not been included in the yearly character count for GLAAD’s report since their primary focus is already on LGBT programming.
Tracking other diversity characters
This also marks the seventh year that GLAAD has analyzed the race/ethnicity and gender demographics of all 647 series regular characters expected to appear on primetime broadcast television in the upcoming season. Male characters continue to outweigh female characters 56.7% (367) to 43.3% (280) in overall numbers, while 78.2% (506) of all series regular characters are white. Compared to last year, African-American representation has decreased from 12.1% to 9.9% (64) while Latino/a representation has increased from 4.9% to 5.6% (36). GLAAD also counted 29 Asian-Pacific Islander characters (4.5%).
For the second year in a row GLAAD has included people with disabilities (PWD) in its overall study of diversity on the broadcast networks. A total of five series regular characters will be PWD, making them just 0.8% of all regular characters, which is one character short of last year’s count. This research was conducted in conjunction with the Tri-Union I AM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities) campaign of Actors' Equity Association, AFTRA and SAG (IAMPWD.org).
Of the 19 announced LGBT regular characters in the 2011-12 primetime broadcast season, five are people of color (26%), and none will be people with disabilities. Not one LGBT character announced for the new broadcast season will be black or transgender.
“GLAAD continues to call for networks to not only include LGBT characters, but ensure that the images reflect the gender and ethnic diversity that makes up our community,” Thompson continued. “There are zero LGBT African-American or transgender characters on broadcast network TV, but storylines like those of True Blood’s spirit-channeling fry cook Lafayette and Degrassi ‘s transgender teen Adam on cable demonstrate how more diverse representations make for popular, original and compelling television.”
This research serves as a benchmark for GLAAD's advocacy efforts which call for fair, accurate and diverse LGBT representations across media platforms. The storylines and characters in the “Where We Are On TV” report will later be reviewed for GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index (NRI), released after May 2012 sweeps, which grades networks on overall LGBT impressions.