Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Representations and Stereotypes in TV
From Women's Studies
Current representation and stereotypes in LGBT community are best seen through the examination of the LGBT characters in popular television shows. Many popular television shows can fall in one of these three genres; dramas, police/crime/horror, or comedies. The amount of LGBT regular or reoccurring characters and the genre of the show are good predictors of the show having or not having a fair and realistic representation of the LGBT community. Butsh’s term risk avoidance can help explain the stereotypes and representations of LGBT community on television.
The genre with the least amount of fair representation and depth of the LGBT community is the comedy genre. Comedies often use LGBT acts or characters as a form of comic relief. This is most commonly depicted through having two straight males kiss on accident. The Big Bang Theory used this tactic in Season 4 when Raj and Howard kissed on accident. These occurrences in comedies continue to encourage the idea that being homosexual is weird and taboo by only mentioning it for a quick joke. Some comedies move past this by having a reoccurring homosexual character. Most comedies do a poor job of presenting lesbian, transgender, and bisexuality. In most comedies references to lesbians is in the lens of straight males which focuses on the erotica aspect of lesbians. Transgender and bisexuality are hardly at all mentioned in comedies unless for a quick joke.
Howard (Simon Maxwell Helberg), left and Raj (Kunal Nayyar), right accidentally kissing
Police/Crime/Horror genre of television shows takes a step farther away from LGBT stereotypes than comedies. Law and Order: Special Victim Unit (SVU) is a show that helps homosexuality stereotypes be diminished by the police's psychiatrist being an Asian American gay male. The character is confronting the single dimensional stereotype of homosexuality. In past decades, the only homosexuals presented were white males which only presented a single dimension of diversity. Dr. George Huang played by BD Wong challenges this stereotype by depicting a character with multiply dimensions of diversity. This character is also a reoccurring character which gives the audience the impression that being gay is not a taboo or only in special circumstances. While Law and Order SVU helped the case for gay males it does not conquer stereotypes for transgender, bisexual, or lesbians. The only references to any of these populations is only when they are victims of a crime in that one episode. There are no reoccurring or regular characters that fall into this population. Law and Order: SVU is step closer than most shows in this genre to giving a fair presentation of homosexual, since most television shows in this genre only possible mention LGBT community only in terms of victims in an episode or two.
BD Wong, Dann Florek, Diane Neal, Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay Ice-T, Richard Belzer and Tamarie Tunie from Law and Order: SVU / Supplied
Drams are the best genre of TV shows if the audiences are looking for a LGBT character who are re-defining stereotypes. On most dramas there is at least one LGBT reoccurring or regular character. Sometimes these characters are multiple dimensional in terms of diversity and personality. Some of these characters challenge such as the homosexual feminine stereotype or the lesbian butch stereotype. Glee and other dramas are taking it a step closer to a fair representation of LGBT community on TV. Glee has over three regular or reoccurring characters that are homosexual. One of the shows main relationships is in fact between Kurt and Blaine, two gay males. There is also a lesbian cheerleader. The show not only has these character present, but they also have episodes focused on the issues LGBT teens deal with such as coming out, bullying, and identity confusion. The show may confirm stereotypes with Kurt's feminine attributes, but it also challenges stereotypes through characters like Dave Karofsky, a bully who is a closeted homosexual. Sadly, like many other shows it does not present any fair representation of transgender or bisexual characters. Shows like Glee start giving the LGBT community a chance to have a fair and realistic presentation to audiences.
Blaine (Darren Everett Criss, left and Kurt (Chris Colfer), right singing
Butsh’s risk avoidance refers to the fact that network executives avoid novel ideas since the bulk of their profits come from the few hours of programming in prime-time. There are not only production costs to worry about, but also losses in advertising income. Each decision for the network executives make could cost the company millions or even billions if one prime-time show fails. The lack of risk taken leads to the occurrence of stereotypes being used often in television. Over time the representations of LGBT community has become closer to reality, but networks cannot move any faster than what the majority of the audience are willing to tolerate or accept.
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Lists of Television Programs with LGBT Characters. Retrieved December 4th, 2011 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_television_programs_with_LGBT_characters.