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Television PopWrapped | Television

Television Academy Gathers Expert Panel To Discuss LGBTI Representation On TV

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


10/31/2013 1:45 pm
PopWrapped | Television
Television Academy Gathers Expert Panel To Discuss LGBTI Representation On TV

Catherine Meushaw and Clare Sidoti

Staff Writer and Managing Editor

Two men have gotten engaged, had a baby and then wed on a California beach. Two male teenagers got engaged. A transgender character received acceptance within a high school glee club. Lesbian and bisexual prison inmates make the best of their time while doing time finding comfort and love with one another, meanwhile a transgender person plays a transgender character. While over in the White House press corp there’s a gay reporter. All these characters and situations have appeared on US TV series in the past year – NBC’s The New Normal, Fox’s Glee, Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and ABC’s Scandal. As the Hollywood Reporter said, “the rainbow flag is the new black”. On Monday October 28 the Television Academy hosted a panel to discuss LGBT and the television industry. The panellists included Emmy Award-winning actor Dan Bucatinsky from Scandal, former My So-Called Life actor Wilson Cruz, Amber Tamblyn (Anger Management), Paul Colichman, CEO of Here Media, Tony Award-nominee Andrew Rannells, The Fosters’ Sherri Saum, Christy Dees, VP of development at Bravo, and Orange Is The New Black star and transgender activist Laverne Cox. The event was moderated by Stephen Tropiano, author of The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV. As seen in a recent study by GLAAD, the prevalence of LGBTI characters on our screens has come a long way. However, more progress still needs to be achieved. The 2012-2013 television season had a record number of LGBTI characters on scripted primetime broadcast television, hitting 4.4 percent. Though this number has dropped in the current season to 3.3 percent, the panellists still found this encouraging and it demonstrated how things have changed for LGBT characters and representation. Bucastinsky plays James Novak, an openly gay White House reporter on Scandal. He praised Shonda Rhimes, the creator not only of Scandal, but also of Grey’s Anatomy, for "allowing characters to unfold in a natural way." As well as his series’ regular on Scandal, among the current Grey’s Anatomy cast are two LGBTI characters. Not to mention the numerous LGBTI characters that show up as guest stars in the form of patients and family members. Rannells, who starred as Bryan Collins on the The New Normal, was encouraged by the fact that their show was able to show two gay, male characters in bed together without scandal or uproar, something that couldn't happen 15 years ago. In fact Tropiano reminded everyone of the fact that thirtysomething showed two men in bed together, resulting in the show losing half a million dollars in advertising. While it is becoming more commonplace to see the many examples of white sexuality on screen, Cruz (who also serves as the national spokesperson for GLAAD) spoke out on current attitudes to colored sexuality. He remarked that, "people of color are 'practically invisible on television.'" This was backed up by the study conducted by GLAAD. One of the few examples of this is Cox, who stars in Orange Is the New Black. She spoke about her experience of being a trans person playing a trans person and how many see this as being “revolutionary, apparently!”. She also discussed the impact her character has had on the OITNB audience. Given the progress made in the past fifteen years or so, while there’s still a long way to go for LGBTI recognition and equality on our television screens, things are moving in the right direction. As LGBTI rights are given more acknowledgement through our legislation and discussion and debate on these topics become more commonplace, it’s only a matter of time before it filters through the Hollywood system and is reflected on our weekly TV screens.


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