Television Tries To Represent Gay And Lesbian Folks. But Usually Fails.

I gotta say, given that it’s 2009 and all, I’m just not impressed with how gay and lesbian folks are portrayed on television. Sure, you might see gay couples on TV, particularly of the lesbian variety. But often, these portrayals smack of being publicity stunts. This week, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation did a study of how the biggest 15 networks represented LGBT characters in their shows last season. They looked for shows that reflected “the lives of gay, bisexual and transgender people.” And, of course, they found that HBO did the best—with 42 percent of its prime-time programming hours devoted to this. Showtime, with shows like “The L Word” and ”The United States of Tara,” was next with a 26 percent. But once the study got to the more mainstream media, the numbers dropped significantly. Of the five major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW—ABC ranked the highest with 24 percent. NBC had only eight percent, and CBS came in with a pathetic five percent. At first glance, these numbers don’t sound too terrible. But I’m going to go ahead and argue that things are a lot grimmer than they appear.Most of the shows the study claimed dealt with LGBT issues, well, just don’t. For HBO, “True Blood,” “Entourage,” and ”The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” were all said to have counted. Why, because the short order cook in “True Blood” is a gay, male prostitute? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the peeps on the vampy show grapple with issues that affect the queer community. And “Entourage,” now that’s a real stretch. The dudes on that show spend more time chasing tail that I care to remember. So maybe, once in a while, at fabulous beach party a few girls get drunk and make out. Lesbian issues? Sorry. No.

I’ll give Showtime credit for “The L Word,” but I’d like to point out that most of the lesbians on this show are skinny, white, and ultra femme. About a year ago, I did an interview with a black lesbian couple and this show came up. Neither one of the girls liked it one bit, saying it made them feel isolated and underrepresented. The study also cited “Weeds” which, again, is totes ridic. So one of the sons has a lesbian friend who shows up every once in a while to make a few funny jokes. Doesn’t count, sorry.

While it is very, very difficult to put a number on the queer community in the U.S., it is estimated that about about one in 10 people are LGBT. The point is, the gay and lesbian community is underserved in the world of media. When queer peeps are shown, it’s usually pretty bogus. And transgender people and others “outside the norm” are nowhere to be found.

I could go on and on but I’ll just punch a hole through my computer and lose my job. So instead I’ll ask you, what’s your opinion? [NY Times]