John Taggart looks at the representation of LGBTIQ characters during the last year.
Casting my eye back over 2018’s queer representation on TV, it’s pleasing to see an upward trend.
On American television 8.8% of regular characters openly identified as gay, trans, or on the queer spectrum – up 2.4% from last year.
In real terms that’s a 38% increase in visibility in a single year, and it’s indicative of a global (or at least Western) trend.
In Australia, Neighbours presented the first same-sex marriage on Australian television, a landmark achievement harking back to the outcome of the marriage equality campaign.
While often disparaged in its native Oz, as a Brit I have a soft spot for Neighbours. It was heartwarming to see the very hot Aaron Brennan say ‘I do’ with David Tanaka in a ceremony officiated by Magda Szubanski.
While transgender representation is up 53%, that’s mainly due to the groundbreaking Pose. Ryan Murphy’s exposè of the underground New York ballroom scenes of the mid 1980s brings these stories back to the screen for the first time since Paris is Burning.
The show portrays a divided community, but one nevertheless brought together by mutual need and love. If you haven’t seen it, catch up now before Season 2 in early 2019.
Netflix displays a greater diversity on screen than any streaming rivals. Personally, I was impressed by The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s portrayal of non-binary identifying Susie, a character originally written as openly trans, but re-moulded to account for non-binary actor Lachlan Watson’s personal experience. While Susie suffers abuse on account of her difference, it doesn’t define them or their relationships with the other characters.
Equally noteworthy on Netflix is the She-Ra reboot’s Bow. The 1980s animated character has been updated from Grecian Adonis, to non-white and visibly wearing a chest binder. While the children’s cartoon hasn’t (yet) officially confirmed or addressed Bow’s trans identity, the inclusion and celebration of diversity as far as possible (so far) is clear.
Less stellar on Netflix is The Good Place and lead character Eleanor’s supposed bisexuality. While various marketing interviews have insisted that her sexuality is incidental and not a ‘big deal’, it’s only ever represented by infrequent throwaway lines – usually of her finding specific women attractive, and played for comedic effect.
While the effort at assimilated representation is laudable, the lack of explicit relations with women, particularly compared with Eleanor’s varied relationships with men, deems this representation underwhelming.
Overall, it’s been a good year for queer representation on TV (even if I am starting to wonder if Will & Grace should have been left asleep, the inclusion of RuPaul on the most recent The Simpsons episode proves there’s diverse life in classic shows yet).
Long may the trend of queer represented inclusivity continue and expand!