Record Highs for Black, Transgender Characters on TV, GLAAD Report Finds

LGBTQ regular characters also hit a high, despite the proliferation of the "Bury Your Gays" trope, the watchdog group finds in its annual "Where We Are on TV" report.
Courtesy of AMC; Courtesy of The CW
Lesbian characters from 'The Walking Dead,' left, and 'The 100' who were killed off last season.

There's good and bad news to be found in GLAAD's annual "Where We Are on TV" annual report.

The LGBTQ-focused annual report — now in its 21st year — found record highs for transgender characters as well as black series regular characters on the small screen during the 2016-17 broadcast season. That's factoring in original series on broadcast, cable, premium cable as well as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

Of the findings, LGBTQ regular characters hit the highest mark (4.8 percent) on broadcast television since GLAAD began tracking all broadcast series regulars 12 years ago. Additionally, there are a record-high 20 percent of all series regulars who are black (though black women represent just 38 percent of the number) and the number of transgender regular (and recurring) characters has more than doubled from a year ago (from seven to 16). There is also a record high of regular characters with disabilities on broadcast TV (1.7 percent), the report found.

"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, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. “GLAAD will continue to work with Hollywood to tell nuanced LGBTQ stories that accelerate acceptance — and hold the networks, streaming services, and content creators accountable for the images and storylines they present.”

On the flip side, GLAAD blasted broadcast networks for their proliferation of the decades-old "Bury Your Gays" trope in which gay or bisexual female characters are killed off at a higher rate in order to further the storylines of straight leading characters. The trope went mainstream this past broadcast season following the deaths of lesbian or bisexual characters on shows including The 100, The Walking Dead and more. GLAAD said that broadcast series specifically "failed queer women" this year, with more than 25 lesbian and bisexual characters being killed off of scripted TV on both broadcast and streaming series since Jan. 1. GLAAD's report reiterated that the organization called for TV producers to do better and warned that the proliferation of the trope is harmful and sends a message that LGBTQ people are "secondary and disposable."

Elsewhere, the report also found that each platform counts one character who is HIV-positive, though there remains only one on broadcast (Oliver on ABC's How to Get Away With Murder).

Click here for more on GLAAD's annual report.

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