Study finds more LGBT characters on prime-time TV

By Michelle Provenzano

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters are on TV screens this season more than ever.

About 4 percent of actors on prime-time network series portray LGBT characters this season, according to the “Where We Are on TV” study that was released Friday by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The 4.4 percent of LGBT TV character exposure is the highest level GLAAD has ever seen, said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media for GLAAD. That number shows a 1.5 percent increase from the 2.9 percent represented in 2011.

“This increase shows that the LGBT community is finding greater acceptance on television and with the audiences,” Kane said.

GLAAD studied 97 shows on the five broadcast networks and graphed out regular characters with an LGBT affiliation. About 700 characters on TV were found to portray the affiliation in some aspect, with all orientations and character statuses confirmed by the networks, he said.

Although LGBT characters are becoming more popular, what’s shown on TV isn’t always like reality, said Matthew Wintle, sponsorship director of UF’s Pride Student Union.

“People take shows like ‘The New Normal’ and base their perspectives off that,” Wintle said. “That show has a lot of stereotypes, and a wide range of the gay and transgendered community don’t fit those stereotypes.”

Chris Boyett, an 18-year-old U. Florida freshman, said he felt similarly.

“The increase of gay characters on television is important, but the characterization in these shows is really forced,” Boyett said. “A lot of the producers and directors in Hollywood are part of the LGBT community, so they need to work on creating more well-rounded characters that represent themselves better.”

Shows like Glee don’t show the LGBT community in a good light, he said. The show emphasizes on the flamboyancy, which isn’t accurate to what the community is really like.

“We see shows like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Will & Grace,’ and a lot of those are just two white gay men,” UF LGBT affairs director Lauren Hannahs said. “We still don’t have a lot of variety in terms of getting transgendered and bisexuals noticed.”

Even though Americans are becoming increasingly accepting of the LGBT community, media outlets and networks often take more conservative approaches, she said.

“It’s hard to pinpoint a perfect example because the LGBT community is so diverse,” Wintle said. “Callie and Arizona from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ are probably the best representation I can see on TV because it gets to the heart that we’re all just people.”

But the increase in character development shows that audiences resonate with these characters, Kane said.

“With Unique’s storyline on ‘Glee’ still to come and Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ we’ll get to see the different personalities within the community,” he said.

Wintle said he believes the representation will get better over time.

“As time progresses, the statistic is going to increase,” Wintle said. “We’re making progress, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

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