By NYAH TENNELL
A recent study conducted by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, entitled “Where We are on TV,” found that LGBTQ representation on television is at a record-high.
With rising awareness of the under-representation of these groups in the media and on television, a multitude of large news media organizations reported on the study’s findings.
However, a majority of the news media sources that reported on these findings failed to mention the under-representation of other groups. For example, the GLAAD study found that people of color and women are extremely underrepresented on television, especially when compared to the percentage of the population these two groups account for.
While this year’s report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20 percent), black women remain underrepresented at only 38 percent of all black series regular characters.
The study also found that, this year, 44 percent of regular characters on prime-time broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly under-represents women who make up 51 percent of the population.
I realize that race, and sometimes gender, are sensitive subjects, and that the under-representation of people of color in many facets of our society has been a topic of discussion for long enough, which may explain why media outlets such as BBC decided to focus on more positive aspects of the GLAAD annual report.
However, without attention to these issues from large media conglomerates, how is the under-representation of these groups expected to improve?
While still failing to include the GLAAD findings on the under-representation of people of color and women, CNN’s report on the GLAAD study did note that, although GLAAD found “there are more LGBTQ characters on broadcast then ever before,” 25 queer female characters across all platforms (broadcast, cable and streaming) have died since the start of 2016.
“Most of these deaths served no other purpose than to further the narrative of a more central (and often straight, cisgender) character,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO said in a press release.
“When there are so few lesbian and bisexual women on television, the decision to kill these characters in droves sends a toxic message about the worth of queer female stories,” Ellis would add.
Of the three sources listed, The Guardian was the only one that mentioned the scarcity of women of color on television, noting that “Black women have an especially difficult time breaking into the industry as they make up only 38% of all black series characters. Despite the overall increase, LGBTQ characters remain overwhelmingly white. The report found this was particularly true on cable and streaming services, where regular and recurring LGBTQ characters were 72% and 71% white respectively.”
Although The Guardian gives readers an extremely well-rounded report on the GLAAD study, the reporting done by other media outlets begs the question: Which parts of the study are important to the news media and, more importantly, why?