According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, television is still under-representing homosexuals far out of balance to actual population ratios. This is for scripted and network broadcast shows only; otherwise the Bravo channel alone probably makes up the difference.
In its annual report, GLAAD estimated that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters represent less than 2 percent of all characters in the 2005-06 television season on the broadcast networks, and most of those are in “wacky” neighbor roles.
It has reason to be disappointed, I think. Homosexual and transgendered people do live among us and, amazingly enough, also have troubles and issues and challenges and triumphs. The complaint that LGBT characters are almost always unfair and insulting stereotypes is a completely valid one.
Or it would be if gay people were the only ones being stereotyped.
Pretty much everyone is stereotyped on television. Let’s look at the new television season and try to find the following people:
Husbands who cannot be described with the term “bumbling.”
Wives who cannot be described with the term “zany.”
Children who are not consistently smarter/funnier/wiser than their parents/guardians.
Teenage boys who read instead of playing video games until their eyes bleed.
Teenage girls who are not focused with laser-like intensity on clothes.
Twins who can be identified right off by other people who know them.
Pregnant women who actually sweat and may even, in extreme medical emergency circumstances, muss their hair during childbirth.
People who stop and clear up misunderstandings by talking instead of concocting zany schemes involving window-washers’ scaffolding to discover the truth.
Sitcom families that live in a house their apparent income might actually afford.
Households that do not look as if a professional cleaning crew was just off camera.
Single men in the dating scene who are not pathetic or predatory.
Single women in the dating scene who are not conniving or predatory.
Single people, of any age, who are somehow not singularly obsessed with sex at all times, even during open-heart surgery.
Asexual characters with no particular interest in sex at all.
People who truly enjoy their jobs and/or employers.
Police officers, federal agents, or investigators who don’t break the rules, rough up suspects, or defy their supervisors, yet somehow manage to solve crimes anyway.
Politicians and government employees who care about the public and don’t try to murder anyone who discovers the nefarious schemes they don’t have.
Doctors who are neither saintly, tireless combaters of Death’s touch nor arrogant, in-it-for-the-money snobs who deserve a comeuppance.
Openly religious characters on a show without “God,” “Heaven,” or “Angel” in the title.
Vegetarians who aren’t tie-dyed, long-haired, hippie throwbacks.
People interested in science fiction who also have rich and active social lives.
People in suits who listen to country music.
Large, muscular men who don’t like sports, beer, or NASCAR.
Women who don’t like shopping.
Food service employees who are hard-working, courteous, and intelligent.
People who are “into” computers but are inexplicably incapable of such a simple thing as hacking into the city’s power grid.
Minority characters who are neither blatantly stereotypical nor indistinguishable from standard, bland white characters with a tan.
Female news anchors with less than 3 pounds of makeup.
News anchors, male or female, whose hair cannot repel small arms fire.
I’m not suggesting GLAAD stop its efforts; I’d like to see television writers avoid any stereotypes at all, especially ones that only became stereotypes because they kept showing up on TV.
However, they might try what I do. Whenever I watch TV. I imagine that one out of every five straight people depicted really is gay, they’re just denying it to themselves and their loved ones. I don’t know if GLAAD is considering the possibility of utterly closeted, self-fooling characters, but that might up the percentages a bit.
By the way, this technique also works at office parties, family gatherings, political rallies, and while taking mass transit. It’s fun and, for all I know, accurate.