News Articles

Study: ABC has most gay characters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–ABC led the way among the five major television networks for onscreen representations of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” people in the most recent season as measured by GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Shows including “Brothers & Sisters,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” helped earn ABC high marks with 24 percent of the network’s primetime programming hours including LGBT representation, GLAAD said in a July 27 news release announcing the results of its third annual “Network Responsibility Index.”

“Television shows that weave our stories into the fabric of the series present richer, more accurate representations and are the kinds of images that help Americans understand and embrace their LGBT family members, friends and neighbors in a more meaningful way,” Rashad Robinson, GLAAD’s senior director of media programs, said.

The CW placed second among broadcast networks in the index, followed by Fox, NBC and CBS. GLAAD gave NBC and CBS failing grades for their 8 and 5 percent of programming hours with LGBT representation, and CBS moved down from third place last year to last among five networks this year.

Among cable networks, HBO was heralded for leading the way with 42 percent of programming hours featuring LGBT representations. Also high on the list were Showtime, TNT, MTV and Lifetime. FX posted the sharpest decline, GLAAD said, and A&E, SciFi and TBS received failing grades for very little LGBT content.

To compile the rankings, GLAAD reviewed nearly 5,000 hours of primetime broadcast programming from June 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009 and noted the inclusion of LGBT characters or issues. They did the same for more than 1,200 hours of programming on cable networks.

Colleen Raezler of the pro-family Culture and Media Institute told OneNewsNow.com that the networks GLAAD praised paint a positive but false picture of the homosexual lifestyle.

“They don’t talk about the high rates of sexually transmitted diseases within the gay community,” Raezler said. “They don’t talk about the fact that their lifestyles are much more unstable.”

In its report, GLAAD lauded ABC for “a long and distinguished history of weaving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) stories into its programming, offering up a number of television ‘firsts.'”

The ABC show “Brothers & Sisters” featured a “married” homosexual couple in the 2008-09 season, and “Desperate Housewives” included at least two homosexual couples.

“On ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ Dr. Callie Torres became the most prominent bisexual character on network television as she explored her relationship with Dr. Erica Hahn while also remaining attracted to Dr. Mark Sloan,” GLAAD wrote of the ABC show. “Though her relationship with Erica fizzled, Callie has found happiness with new character Dr. Arizona Robbins.”

GLAAD called “Ugly Betty” one of the most LGBT friendly comedies on television.

Regarding The CW, which ranked second, GLAAD wrote, “Tyra Banks’ long-running modeling competition, ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ broke new ground with the inclusion of Isis King, the show’s first transgender contestant. Top Model dealt head on with some of the other models’ misconceptions and fears and offered a well-developed representation of a young transgender woman.”

Also on The CW, “Gossip Girl” features a male teenager who dates another male, as well as a father who has a boyfriend. On “90210,” a bisexual cheerleader appeared for a string of episodes.

On HBO, “True Blood,” a vampire series created by an openly homosexual man, featured the most inclusive LGBT content this season, GLAAD said, mainly because of a homosexual African American who plays a lead role.

“Most significantly, [creator Alan] Ball has used the persecution of vampires on True Blood as a thinly veiled allegory for obstacles faced by the LGBT community,” GLAAD said.

Also on HBO, GLAAD said the polygamist drama “Big Love” aired with nine hours of LGBT inclusive programming during the past season. “Almost every episode had LGBT impressions, with gay characters Alby or Heather appearing in most of them,” the group said.

During the past year, Showtime’s overall LGBT inclusivity was down 8 percent from the previous season, GLAAD said, but the network managed to maintain the No. 2 position in cable rankings.

“‘The L Word’ continued to be the most LGBT-inclusive series on television with a cast filled with LGBT characters. Unfortunately, this was the show’s final season,” GLAAD said.

The cancellation of “The L Word” on Showtime means the upcoming television season will be the first time since the premiere of “Will & Grace” in 1998 that there will not be a series on the air with a leading cast of mostly homosexual characters, the group noted.

Raezler, of the Culture and Media Institute, said the public can influence the prevalence of such programming by refusing to watch it, thereby reducing ratings. With low ratings, the shows won’t gain the advertising revenue necessary to remain on the air.

GLAAD is self-described as “dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach