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Following 2012’s record, the number of LGBT characters on television dipped, with Fox, ABC and ABC Family among the most inclusive networks, according to a new GLAAD study.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 18th annual “Where We Are on TV” report has found that of the series regulars on primetime broadcast scripted series, only 3.3 percent of the characters featured in the 2013-14 TV were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s down from last year’s record high of 4.4 percent. But the report isn’t all bad news: Of the 3.3 percent, there are an equal number of women and men LGBT characters, showing an effort on the networks’ part to diversify storylines beyond those most typically seen on TV, GLAAD found. (The number of recurring LGBT characters also ticked down from 25 to 20.)
On cable, meanwhile, GLAAD tallied 42 regular LGBT characters, up from 35 year-over-year, with an additional 24 recurring characters. HBO led the pack with 11, followed by Showtime (eight). Of those characters, 39 percent are women and 29 percent are people of color. Only one was transgender (Adam on Degrassi, who no longer appears on the series.)
Of the 796 overall regular characters on primetime, the number of female characters declined to 43 percent. People of color will again comprise 23 percent of all regulars, while only 1 percent are depicted as people with disabilities.
“Last season was a stellar one when it comes to the sheer number of gay, lesbian and bisexual representations on television, though diversity within those storylines showed room for improvement,” GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz said. “Though the number of LGBT characters dropped this season, shows like The Fosters, with an interracial female couple raising a family, and characters like Unique (Alex Newell) on Glee have not only moved the conversation about LGBT people forward, but are also a hit with audiences.”
Meanwhile, the watchdog group’s annual Network Responsibility Index — which rates LGBT content on networks during the since completed 2012-13 TV season — GLAAD found that Fox was the most inclusive broadcaster with 42 percent of its programming hours having included LGBT images.
Each network is assigned a grade on a scale of excellent, good, adequate or failing, with Fox earning a “good” rating. No network received the top marks in the seventh annual NRI. ABC came in second in terms of inclusive hours (33 percent, good rating). On cable, ABC Family was determined to be the most inclusive network GLAAD tracked last year, with 50 percent of its programming including LGBT impressions or stories. FX followed with 40 percent. History again received a failing grade, with no LGBT images on any of its programming last season.
The studies come after a year in which network cancellations drastically reduced the number of LGBT characters on primetime. NBC’s gay-themed The New Normal was canceled after one season, as were Go On, Smash, Partners, Happy Endings, Southland, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, Malibu Country, 90210, Emily Owens, The Office and L.A. Complex, all of which featured openly gay or bisexual characters. (Glee‘s Heather Morris, who played bisexual cheerleader Brittany also exited the series.)
Meanwhile, new series featuring LGBT characters include Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC’s Sean Saves the World and ABC’s Back in the Game joined returning gay-friendly series Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Glee (Fox) and The Carrie Diaries (The CW).
Here’s a closer look at both studies, with the complete report available on GLAAD’s website.
Network Responsibility Index
• Good: ABC, ABC Family, The CW, Fox, MTV, NBC, Showtime
• Adequate: CBS, FX, HBO, TLC, TNT, USA Network
• Failing: History, TBS
Where We Are on TV
Percentage of LGBT characters:
The CW 3%
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