By Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis GLAAD.org
This morning, GLAAD released its annual Where We Are on TV report; a comprehensive forecast of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) characters expected in primetime scripted programming in the 2018-19 television season. This is the 23rd year GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television, and the 14th Where We Are on TV report. Four years ago, GLAAD expanded its count to quantify LGBTQ characters on original series there premiere on the streaming content providers Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.
Of the 857 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime scripted programming in the coming year, 75 (8.8%) were counted as LGBTQ. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ regular characters GLAAD has counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming. There were an additional 38 recurring LGBTQ characters. This is 113 total LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on primetime scripted broadcast TV, up from the previous year’s 86. The five broadcast networks are ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC. The CW counts the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars of all series regulars.
Notably for the first time this year, LGBTQ characters of color (50 percent) outnumber white LGBTQ characters (49 percent) among regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on broadcast. LGBTQ broadcast characters are also at gender parity this year with equal percentages of men and women characters (49.6 percent) and one non-binary character.
GLAAD is calling on the industry to make sure that within the next two years, 10 percent of series regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast series are LGBTQ. This is an important next step towards ensuring that our entertainment reflects the world in which it is created.
The number of LGBTQ regular characters counted on cable increased from 103 last year to 120 this year, while recurring LGBTQ characters is up from 70 to 88. This is 208 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, though it should be noted that 31 of these characters are not expected to return for the 2019-20 season due to series cancellations, announced finales, or characters being written off but who appeared as a regular or recurring character during the research period.
On cable, there are eight series that each count six or more LGBTQ characters. The 56 characters on these eight series represent 27 percent of all LGBTQ representation on cable. We hope to see LGBTQ characters introduced on more new shows in the next year as well’ as currently, if one of these eight series were to end, there would be a notable decrease in inclusion across cable as a whole.
On scripted streaming originals on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, LGBTQ regular characters are up with 75 (from 51) and an additional 37 characters. This is a total of 112 LGBTQ characters on scripted streaming originals, up from last year’s 70.
“With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “Not only do stories that explore the rich lives and identities of LGBTQ people move the needle forward culturally, but they pay off in ratings – shows like Will & Grace, Supergirl, Empire, and How To Get Away with Murder all attract millions of viewers weekly and demonstrate that audiences are hungry for new stories and perspectives.”
The number of Bisexual+ characters is up this year. Across broadcast, cable, and streaming, GLAAD counted 117 bi+ characters which is up from 93 in the previous year. Notably, this was the first time in several years that there was an increase in the number of bisexual+ men. This year there are 84 bi+ women and 33 bi+ men. Bi+ characters make up 27% of all LGBTQ characters across the three platforms tracked; this still underrepresents bi+ people who make up the majority of the LGB community.
The number of transgender characters is also up this year in a welcome sign of progress. GLAAD counted 26 transgender characters compared to 17 in the previous report. Of those 26, 17 are transgender women, five are trans men and four are non-binary characters. This report includes two groundbreaking television moments for the trans community. TV history has been made with the premiere of FX’s Pose which counts the largest number of transgender series regulars in a scripted U.S. series ever and The CW’s Supergirl recently introduced television’s first transgender superhero with Dreamer/Nia Nal (Nicole Maines).
Last year’s report was the first time that GLAAD was able to count asexual regular or recurring characters. Broadcast is again the only platform tracked without a canon asexual character; cable and streaming each count one asexual character returning from the previous year (Raphael of Freeform’s Shadowhunters, Todd on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman). There were no additional asexual characters introduced this year. GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance survey found that 20 percent of Americans aged 18-34 (a key demographic for networks) identify as LGBTQ and four percent identify as asexual. GLAAD hopes to see more ace characters introduced, especially with the end of Shadowhunters this coming spring.
Other encouraging findings include a record-high percentage of series regulars on broadcast television who are people of color (44 percent, 373 out of 857), as well as a record-high percentage of regular characters with disabilities on broadcast television (2.1 percent).
“This year’s Where We Are on TV report has shown important progress towards a media landscape that is LGBTQ-inclusive and portrays the community in a fair and accurate way,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD. “This year we noted two history-making television moments: the premiere of FX’s Pose, which features the largest number of transgender series regular characters on a scripted U.S. series ever, and this fall The CW’s Supergirl introduced audiences to TV’s first transgender superhero when Nicole Maines made her debut as Dreamer/Nia Nal. This is all part of a welcome increase in television telling groundbreaking stories featuring characters whose identities have long been left off screen.”
Key findings include:
Of the 857 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming this season, 75 (8.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. This is the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the fourteen years this report has counted all broadcast series regulars. There were an additional 38 recurring LGBTQ characters.
The number of regular LGBTQ characters counted on scripted primetime cable increased to 120, while recurring characters increased to 88, making for 208 characters.
There were 75 LGBTQ regular characters counted in original scripted series on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix as well as 37 recurring characters, for a total of 112 LGBTQ characters.
Bisexual+ characters make up 27 percent of the LGBTQ characters tracked across all platforms (broadcast, cable, streaming originals), a slight decrease in percentage from last year, but up to 117 characters from 93 in the previous report. The numbers still skew toward women, though there was an increase in bi+ men this year (84 women to 33 men).
This year, there are 26 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all three platforms, up from 17 last year. Of those, 17 are trans women, five are trans men, and four are non-binary characters.
Racial diversity of LGBTQ characters is up significantly on all three platforms tracked. For the first time, LGBTQ characters of color outnumber white LGBTQ characters on broadcast television, 50 percent to 49 percent. 44 percent of all series regulars on broadcast scripted television are people of color, a four percent increase from the previous report.
Last year was GLAAD’s first inclusion of asexual characters in our annual count. Both characters (Raphael Santiago on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, Todd Chavez on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman) have returned from the previous year, but no additional asexual characters have been added. There still no ace characters on broadcast.
Only 43 percent of the regular characters counted on broadcast primetime television are women, the same percentage as last year and a severe underrepresentation of the U.S. population, which is estimated to be 51 percent women.
The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 2.1 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. There are seven characters across all three platforms tracked (broadcast, cable, streaming) who are HIV-positive, a substantial increase from last year’s two.
Netflix counts the highest number of LGBTQ characters on all streaming services and FX counts the highest number on cable networks. The CW boasts the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters of the five broadcast networks.
GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report not only propels national conversations about LGBTQ representation, but informs GLAAD’s own advocacy within the television industry. GLAAD uses this yearly data to create a clearer picture of the stories and images being presented by television networks, and to work alongside the networks and content creators to tell fair, accurate, and inclusive LGBTQ stories on screen.