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US network TV hits record high number of LGBT characters

Dominic Preston November 3, 2016

American network TV included a record number of LGBT characters this year according to the latest report from media watchdog GLAAD.

Despite that progress though, the organisation warned that many TV shows “failed queer women” by killing off a disproportionate number of female LGBT characters.

Orange Is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)
Orange Is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)

GLAAD’s annual ‘Where We Are On TV’ report found that 43 of 895 (4.8%) series regular characters on broadcast TV were LGBT, the highest proportion the group has ever counted.

There were also record numbers of black (20%) and disabled (1.7%) series regular characters across the broadcast networks.

The five broadcast networks GLAAD monitors are ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW.

Meanwhile the number of regular LGBT characters on cable rose from 84 last year to 92 this year, and on streaming platforms it rose ever so slightly from 43 to 45.

“While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it’s important to remember that numbers are only part of the story,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO.

“We must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community.”

GLAAD singled out the treatment of LGBT women for criticism, noting that more than 25 bi or lesbian female-identifying characters were killed on shows this year.

The organisation criticised this as the continuation of the ‘bury your gays’ trope, in which LGBT characters are killed off, often to further a straight, cisgender character’s plotline.

It’s a trope that drew particular notoriety this year when The CW’s sci-fi teen drama The 100 killed off LGBT character Lexa, prompting widespread criticism.

The show’s executive producer eventually apologised for the decision, admitting: “Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently.”

GLAAD has honoured Mariah Carey, Ruby Rose and Demi Lovato with awards this year for their work for the LGBT community.

Last year the organisation ceased publishing its Network Responsibility Index, which rated each network for the quantity of its LGBT representation.

Instead it now focuses on the ‘Where We Are On TV’ report, which highlights the diversity of those representations.

And if you’re looking for TV to watch that gets LGBT representation right, take a look at our round-up of eight of the best LGBT shows on TV right now.

More: GLAAD, glaad TV Report, the 100, US

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