American gay rights activists have revealed that only 1.3% of characters on network entertainment programming are LBGT.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said that despite the increased interest in gay and lesbian issues at the cinema, the conservative big six networks were still not anywhere near representative.
“In the last year, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of visibility on the big screen, reaching a large audience anxious to see our stories,” said GLAAD President Neil Giuliano.
“The networks, though, are not tapping into this audience and are failing to represent the reality and diversity of their viewers and the world around them.”
The US seems to have taken to gay cinema, with Capote, Transamerica and Brokeback Mountain all generating decent box office and huge word-of-mouth.
GLAAD looked at 95 shows, new and returning, across the networks, such as CBS and NBC. Heavily reliant on advertising, they are vulnerable to boycotting. As they broadcast through local affiliates, it is often conservative values in rural states that prevent the networks showing controversial or ground-breaking programming.
Of the 679 recurring characters on the network shows, there are eight gay men and one lesbian.
Best known, and most lusted after, is Desperate Housewives’ teenage tearaway Andrew Van De Camp. He has broken taboos by kissing his boyfriend, being topless in bed with him, and seducing his mother’s lover.
Housewives creator Marc Cherry is proud of his character, but did not tell the network he was gay until the show was a hit: “He is perhaps the most empowered gay teen in the history of television. He’s gay and he doesn’t care.”
The ground-breaking Will and Grace limps off-screen this season, taking with it the two most high-profile gay characters on US network television.
“The broadcast networks have a responsibility to replace `Will Grace,”‘ GLAAD president Neil Giuliano said.
“Not only is a show like this good TV, but it can foster acceptance, dialogue and respect – and it’s the right thing to do. If the success of `Will Grace’ proved anything, it’s that inclusion is good business.”
For those Americans lucky enough to have cable, they can’t avoid the gays – with the American version of Queer As Folk running to five seasons and The L Word attempting the same representation for lesbians.