The good news from GLAAD’s new report on LGBT representation is that there are more regular gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters on television than ever before. The bad news is that there would be even more if showrunners were less prone to killing them off.
In GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV report, the LGBT media advocacy group found that 6.4 percent of regular characters on broadcast scripted primetime programs were LGBTQ—the highest of any year on record.
But GLAAD also specifically called out the trend of killing off an LGBTQ character “in [the] service of another straight, cisgender character’s plot line”—a trope known as “Bury Your Gays” that has become especially common over the last two seasons of television, which saw “the deaths of an overwhelming number of lesbian and bisexual women characters.”
“The number of queer women on all of television—and broadcast especially—took a severe dip in the past few years,” Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis, told The Daily Beast. “While we did see cable and broadcast increase in lesbian representation this year, TV has still not bounced back to some of the higher percentages we’ve seen in the past—and gay men continue to outnumber every other part of the community.”
Indeed, GLAAD’s report speaks to the crucial distinction between quantity and quality when it comes to LGBT media representation, most notably when it comes to the lack of romance and sex LGBTQ characters have on TV, compared to their straight counterparts. Equality for LGBTQ characters on TV isn't measured in just numbers, but in terms of what they are shown doing and saying.
“LGBTQ characters remain largely on the fringes of ensemble casts, rather than the leads of the series,” Townsend explained. “As such, their screen time tends to vary based on how many plots the overall series has time to handle. It is then easier to treat this character as expendable – either killing them off when in need of a buzzy shock or otherwise writing the character off.” Read more via Daily Beast