Broadcast Network TV: 2015-2016

  • 105 scripted TV shows, featuring a total of 1936 main/recurring characters

  • Only 48 of those were lesbian/bisexual women – our rate of representation is 2.47%

  • 13 of those are dead (27% regular/recurring dead)

  • When taking guest roles into account, we counted 10 more lesbian and bi characters, 3 of which were killed off (28% dead, including guests)

  • According to Vox research, 22 out of the total 242 characters killed across all platforms of television were LGBT women, which make up 9% of all deaths.

The 2015-2016 TV season was one of controversy with regards to LGBTQ+ representation, and the high rate of deaths for lesbian and bisexual female characters launched the discussion to the forefront of entertainment media. For the first time, it brought mainstream attention to how our stories are told and why the content of those stories is just as important as visibility. We know that television is a big source of information and influences our views of the world, and this is true for perception of the LGBTQ+ community as well – a more in depth look on this issue can be found here. Currently, there is very little information on the overall impact of LGBTQ+ representation; while the best known source, Glaad, mostly focuses on the increasing rates of visibility, we aim to provide additional information on the content of LGBTQ+ representation.

As the ‘Bury Your Gay’ trope was most notable in the 2015-2016 TV season, we decided to examine how broadcast networks handled or mishandled this trope this year. To make it on our list, the lesbian/bi character had to appear in more than one episode and this left us with a total of only 58 characters. With an overall death rate of 28% for this group, we can say with certainty that there is a lot of room for improvement across the board (details per network on the right). The overall message that broadcast television has sent to lesbian and bisexual women in the 2015-2016 TV season is that it is nearly inevitable that either their partners or they themselves will die an early death. It is a harmful message to keep reaffirming for the greater LGBTQ+ community, especially to queer youth: their lives will be harsh and end in misery.

Noteworthy

Several recurring characters on this list are LGBTQ+ in name only – often a one line admittance of sexuality that is never explored. Hannah on Quantico revealed she was bi during a phone call moments before disappearing off the show. Annelise on Grandfathered is part of the main cast, but beyond a single episode where she goes on a same sex date, her sexuality is otherwise invisible. Another recurring character from the same show, Cindy, is listed as bisexual after a one-line reply; her role otherwise is nothing more than background scenery, her sexuality never explored/hinted at on screen (due to this she was excluded from the statistics).

It is also important to remember that even these few characters who are still alive on current shows, unfortunately aren’t immune to other damaging tropes. Take Barabara Gordon on Gotham for example, she turns into a mentally ill villain after she cheats on her boyfriend with her ex-girlfriend.

General Statistics per Network

ABC

  • 26 shows

  • 559 characters

  • 18 lesbian/bisexual characters

  • 16 of which main/recurring (2.86% of all network characters)

  • 3 dead (16.67%), 18.75% of deaths

CBS

  • 26 shows

  • 463 characters

  • 6 lesbian/bisexual characters

  • 5 of which main/recurring (1.07%)

  • 3 dead (50%), 18.75% of deaths

CW

  • 14 shows

  • 298 characters

  • 11 lesbian/bisexual characters

  • 8 of which main/recurring (2.68%)

  • 5 dead (45.45%), 31.25%  of deaths

NBC

  • 21 shows

  • 342 characters

  • 6 lesbian/bisexual characters

  • 4 of which main/recurring (1.16%)

  • 2 dead (33.33%), 12.5% of deaths

FOX

  • 18 shows

  • 274 characters

  • 17 lesbian/bisexual characters

  • 15 of which main/recurring (5.47%)

  • 3 dead (17.65%), 18.75% of deaths

2017-02-17T15:19:54+00:00 February 6th, 2017|