LGBT, As Seen On T.V.
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In July of 2015, America became one of the first world countries to ensure marriage equality to all of its citizens. This was preceded by a wide increase in LGBT characters in television and films.
“I am incredibly supportive and proud as to how far we’ve come to support the LGBT community and I am all for incorporating more of those characters into shows and movies,” says Sophomore Maggie McNeeley.
Of the 881 regular characters who are present during the 2015-2016 TV season, 35 were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This is means that 3.97% of television characters are shown as a part of the LGBT community.
“I think it’s great that equal opportunity is starting to be distributed amongst society. It helps the world see that the LGBT community can achieve just as much as the straight community,” says Sophomore Kenya Adams.
But merely having LGBT characters on television and in movies is not the ultimate goal. How those characters are represented is equally as important.
“Sometimes they are shown as stereotypes and sometimes not, it depends on the show. But for the most part I feel like lots of tv shows use gay characters as either comic relief or as a way to get more views,” says Sophomore Jake Forstein.
However, the stereotypical gay character is quickly becoming a relic of the past. As more people of the LGBT community become a part of the production and writing process the representation of LGBT people becomes more accurate.
“I think we’re growing into a more realistic interpretation of the life of a gay person. There are still some programs and movies that make their characters portray a typical, negative LGBT stereotype, but i think we’re starting to break away from that,” says Adams.
The most important impact of LGBT representation in media is how it affects those that are actually members of the community, especially younger members.
“I believe that showing teenagers that feeling attraction to someone of the sex/gender is an important role in displaying that it is normal to feel that way because it is also being displayed to a wide audience, and can lead to the emotional acceptance for people who are LGBT,” says McNeeley.
In a world where the majority of politicians, scientists, and celebrities are straight, gay characters can help provide LGBT youth with role models to aspire to be like.
“I feel like a lot of people can have LGBT characters as role models. One of my friends came out in the same way as one of his favorite tv characters. So yeah, I feel like LGBT characters can definitely have a positive influence on LGBT youth,” says Forstein.
Despite all of the gains in LGBT rights, there are still those that believe that homosexuality, bisexuality, and any other number of gender identities and sexualities are wrong. The way in which members of that community are represented are extremely important in changing that viewpoint.
“The representation through media matters because if someone has no idea about what life is like as a homosexual, they’ll likely interpret the community in the way they see it through the media,” says Adams.
So how are homophobic people affected through media?
“LGBT representation affects those that think it is wrong by making them used to the idea of gay people and making it not as weird as other people believe it is,” says Forstein.
And hopefully, the representation of LGBT members will only lead to the increase in acceptance.
“LGBT representation, if positive, could change the way homophobes see the LGBT community – perhaps open their eyes to see that we’re all human,” says Adams.
As LGBT representation continues to grow, people look to the future and what it holds for global rights for LGBT people.
“I believe that in the future, more of the LGBT community will be represented across the globe, and will hopefully have a positive impact on other countries to lead to the acceptance of them,” says McNeeley.