For the past several years, the entertainment industry has been the subject of many a conversation about representation and inclusion of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals onscreen. Whether those conversations are effecting enough change — not to mention whether it’s happening fast enough — remains a heated debate, but many recent TV and film projects, from Billions to Crazy Rich Asians, have at least shown real progress.
The latest report by the media monitoring organization GLAAD, which compiles an annual report that specifically studies LGBTQ representation on television, suggests another step in the right direction.
The 2018 edition, which covers shows airing between June 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019, reflects a markedly positive change in diversity and representation, including, as noted in GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis’s introductory letter, two “history-making television moments”: the June 2018 premiere of FX’s Pose, which featured the largest number of transgender series regulars ever on a scripted US TV series, and the upcoming introduction of Nia Nal (Nicole Maines) to Supergirl as TV’s first transgender superhero.
Overall, GLAAD found that the number of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast TV airing in primetime has increased from 2017’s 6.4 percent to an all-time high of 8.8 percent. It also found that the 2018-’19 TV season marks the first time that LGBTQ characters of color outnumber white LGBTQ characters, and reported that all TV platforms (broadcast, cable, and streaming) have shown significant increases in LGBTQ characters of color.
It’s a growth that comes in concurrence with a 4 percent increase over last year in series regular characters on broadcast television who are people of color and, within that statistic, an overall increase in racial diversity as characters of all ethnicities have become more visible in mainstream media.
Finally, the number of transgender characters across all TV platforms has also increased, as has the number of bisexual characters represented on TV.
GLAAD’s 2017 report on LGBTQ inclusion in TV suggested that the industry was still hampered by a mostly uphill battle for diversity, as each increase in the number of LGBTQ characters and characters of color across broadcast, cable, and streaming TV seemed to be matched by a decrease in another category from its 2016 findings. The 2018 report seems to indicate that change is occurring a little more reliably.
To be sure, increases in representation across the TV industry remain tenuous, as the total percentage of representative characters remains in the single digits (and representation of people with disabilities and the transgender community remains slim). But GLAAD’s 2018 report suggests that industry-wide efforts to increase representation are starting to find a foothold, seemingly indicating less of a “one step forward, two steps back” situation than seen in previous years. Going forward, it seems like that positive change will continue.
Ellis’s introductory letter also calls for more concrete action, asking for a conscious effort from the entertainment industry to set a goal of having 10 percent of series regular characters on primetime broadcast programs be LGBTQ, “ensuring that our entertainment reflects the world in which it is created.” Bit by bit, change is occurring — but as has been the case for years, there is still a lot of work to be done.