Is Your TV Homophobic?
“As television audiences get to know our community and the common ground that we all share on the screen and in their own lives, acceptance is growing,” says Mike Thompson, the acting president of GLAAD, who recently released the results of the gay watchdog group’s annual Network Responsibility Index (NRI) about the good, the bad and ugly about all things gay on television.
The report studies programming on five broadcast and 10 cable channels. The big winner? ABC Family has become the second network ever to receive an “excellent” rating from GLAAD. Of its 103 hours of original primetime programming, more than half includes LGBT-inclusive images that also reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the LGBT community. MTV also received the highest rating for its shows. Both networks cater to younger viewers, says Thompson.
“Programs like Pretty Little Liars and Greek have woven gay, lesbian and bisexual characters into their stories in a way that mirrors the diversity of our community and the experiences of younger generations,” explains Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’s senior director of programs. “Viewers expect to see television environments that accurately reflect what it’s like to be a young adult, and today that includes young adults who happen to be gay.”
Other winners in the new report include the CW, which remains the top broadcast network with 33 percent of its programming hours spent being gay-friendly. Fox comes in second (29 percent) and also received a “good” rating.
ABC, meanwhile, is in third place – and also received a “good” rating for its healthy depictions of LGBT life. The network banked about 253 hours showcasing LGBT themes and characters.
“CBS showed the most improvement for any broadcast network,” says Graddick. Last year it received a “failing” score, while this year it’s been updated to “adequate” thanks to about 10 percent of LGBT programming. “We continue to urge them to address the problems and deficiencies in their representation of our community, and hope their forward momentum will soon have them catching up with the other broadcast networks,” he says.
The transgender community is one where most networks have failed to include any regular or recurring characters. An exception is the TV show Degrassi on Teen Nick which follows the story line of a female-to-male transgender teen named Adam. GLAAD has worked with the show’s writers on several scripts, including “My Body is a Cage,” in which Adam is first introduced. The episode received a Peabody Award and was also recently nominated for an Emmy.
“Fairly and accurately depicting the transgender community should be seen not just as a responsibility for the networks, but as an opportunity,” Thomson says. “These are rich characters and stories yet to be written that would also help networks reflect the full spectrum of the LGBT community.”
Here’s a rundown of other networks and their ratings:
A&E: 5 percent
AMC: 29 percent
Lifetime: 31 percent
HBO: 31 percent
Showtime: 37 percent
Syfy: 22 percent
TBS: 5 percent
TNT: 33 percent
USA: 18 percent