2016-2017 Year In Review

We have reached the end of the 2016-2017 TV season and the team at LGBT Fans Deserve Better have examined the state of representation for lesbian, bisexual, and queer female characters this past year. Covering the period from June 1 2016 – May 31 2017, our stats team covered a watch list of 373 shows across broadcast, cable, premium, and streaming platforms, and have compiled the most relevant stats on the 258 queer female TV characters this season.

Using a new method to collect the yearly stats for all platforms, we cannot make a direct comparison to the same numbers from last year; however, in general, it appears that the most notable trope hitting queer female characters last TV season, Bury Your Gays (BYG) was down, though several shows did reveal previously canonically straight characters to be queer just to kill them off soon after, including Rogue, The Blacklist, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Wentworth. Additionally, while BYG is less frequent, the overall rep numbers were also down, with fewer queer female characters appearing across all platforms this year than last year.

Notably, there were a few bright spots: Netflix featured more queer characters than any other network, and new queer female characters and storylines were introduced on both new and existing shows, refuting the argument that critical audience viewing of LGBTQ+ characters would lead to fewer of those characters being written. We did not find that to be the case, and the addition of new characters and story arcs will be something we’ll watch with interest in the coming year as well.

However, there were still a number of outstanding issues that plague queer female representation across all platforms. Lesbian characters are much less likely than bisexual female characters to be series regulars, resulting in fewer core storylines and more off-screen  or absent love interests. And while there are more bisexual female lead or co-lead characters, this is still an extremely low number out of the total of all queer female characters on the surveyed shows. Overall, racial and ethnic diversity continues to be an issue, with a staggering 76% of bisexual characters and 64% of lesbian characters classified as white, which is not reflective of the diversity of backgrounds and experiences for our community. The need to push for more varied and intersectional LGBTQ+ representation is still quite clear.

Jess from LGBTFDB (@jerseyfjord) is joined by host Kristen of the ABC podcast series (@ABCs_of_TheLoo) as well as former LGBTFDB volunteer Chandler (@Chandyy08to chat about the state of representation and the major highs and lows of queer TV this past year, including results of our informal volunteer survey on the shows and storylines that meant the most to all of you, including Supergirl, Orphan Black, Wynonna Earp, Sense8 and One Day At A Time.

*In the weeks since this podcast was recorded, the series Doctor Who buried (and then subsequently unburied) their queer female lead. This “presumed dead” trend for queer female characters will be the subject of an upcoming roundtable from the LGBTFDB team.

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All data was compiled by the LGBTFDB research staff, using streaming services, personal knowledge, articles, online fansites, and other various tools to collect and record data. Staff members compiled this data in good faith, and we attest to its accuracy to the best of our ability.  Because of the sheer number of television shows and characters, data collected and compiled might be subject to slight variations due to human error. Any such variations would be minimal, and would not materially affect the results and findings of the data in any significant way.

2017-07-06T13:38:33+00:00 July 5th, 2017|