GLAAD | News | Television

Why Would Networks Not Include Gay Characters?

KurtGlee GLAAD this week released its annual assessment of gay inclusion in television.

According to their data, Fox is the most inclusive of all the major networks, thanks in large part to Glee, while HBO wins in the cable realm.

Overall, however, gay representation is down a bit from last year, when ABC was tops in terms of LGBT inclusion.

From ABC News:

GLAAD announced that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters account for 2.9 percent of regular characters in primetime scripted broadcast TV for the 2011-12 season. That's down from 3.9 percent in 2010.

The percentage of LGBT characters on primetime scripted cable TV also dipped from last year, according to GLAAD.

Still, representatives for the organization said there's much to celebrate: From "Modern Family" to "True Blood" to "Glee," many of the shows acclaimed by both critics and audiences are also invested in developing LGBT characters.

I was actually thinking about this earlier this week, and wondered why more networks don't include queer characters in their line up.

Aside from the obvious reasons for creating LGBT characters -- positive portrayal in an era in which LGBT people are becoming more mainstream -- it seems to me that network and cable executives would want to stack their shows with gay characters because gays often have tons of disposable income.

Those dollars could then be spent on the advertisers who, if they were smart, specifically bought time on shows with gay characters, thereby increasing the networks' bottom line.

It's just common sense -- and cents -- to include LGBT characters on television, and anyone who disagrees is either a bigot or incredibly dense.

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  1. Seriously Andy, this is the second time I've seen a reference to rich gays with disposable income this month. It is a perception, but it is not the whole truth. It's not even necessarily the majority. I love your blog but you need to do some reading in this area. You've linked to stories by Gary Gates before but have you read through his corpus of work?

    Go here:

    Download "LGBT Demographics presented at
    2010 Out & Equal Workplace Summit" and go through that. Then read some of the actual reports.

    I think you do a disservice to the community when you focus on this aspect of why the media should play nice with us.

    Posted by: Derek | Sep 29, 2011 12:05:34 PM

  2. "Look at "Friends." A show that was set in New York but rarely had any people of color on in its first seasons. That was institutional bigotry"

    @Mark Huh? It is "insitutional bigotry" when there are no racial minorities on a show?

    Look, the reality is that there is very little socializing across racial lines, even in Manhattan. There just isn't. And what is ridiculous to me is the constant attempts on the part of the networks to ignore this reality and end up creating situations that everybody knows are not reflective of real life, by, for example, placing a single character of a racial minority in amongst a group of white friends (or vice-versa, although you virtually never see a lone white person being portrayed as belonging to a circle of friends who are all black or Asian or whatever.)

    It just comes across as political propaganda rather than as realistic programming.

    And I kind of feel that way about the gay guy in "Happy Endings". It just seems so forced and unrealistic. I realize that the intention is good and I appreciate the fact that the gay character is portrayed as having a masculine demeanor, but the situations to me are un-believable. I just don't know of many cases where gay guys are "best buddies" with straight guys, even among younger people.

    Maybe they exist--and I wish to God they did--but I have not seen many of them......but then again, maybe this is good propaganda in the sense of demonstrating that things CAN be that way....and here is how to go about it.

    Just thinking out loud a little in that last paragraph.

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 29, 2011 12:13:58 PM

  3. Derek, it's not Andy posting this time, it's his sub, Andrew Belonsky. Since the strategy seems to be to only hire subs that make us appreciate Andy more, expect a lot more of the same until Andy gets back.

    This is quite possibly the single most successful blog of its kind -- is it asking too much that all of its correspondents be competent?

    Posted by: ohplease | Sep 29, 2011 12:30:29 PM

  4. @ Rick

    Here's a chair \_ Have a seat.

    The truth is that maybe for you there is little socializing across racial lines, but for many people in large cities, such is the norm. I know for a fact that my circle of friends encompasses every minority group. To exclude everyone but the pretty white people from a show is an all too common trope in American film and television. It's disgusting and a result of ignorance and institutionalized bigotry.

    Also will you please shut up with the schtick about masculine gays. It's clearly coming from a very misogynistic place and is more tired than a truck stop hooker. Please sit yo' azz all the way down.

    Posted by: new-new | Sep 29, 2011 12:34:03 PM

  5. Um, out of my close circle of about 6 people, 3 of them are straight guys, Rick. I don't know what world or century you're living in, but not all straight men go out of their way to avoid gays, and vice versa.

    Oh, and I agree with Rowan to a certain extent, I think that the main reason there will always be a cap on the numbers of gay characters on TV comes down to the fact about 40% of our country is homophobic. Then, you have to remember another critical and obvious factor-----which demographics watch the most TV. Statistically that would be middle-aged and older adults, blacks, and Southerners/the Bible Belt overall. Not exactly what most would consider groups who hold a high regard of us. That's really the biggest issue. Another fact: Self-identifying conservatives watch more TV by quite a margin.

    There is a reason why execs focus on "Middle-Americans". That's because, ultimately, that's the #1 group these sitcoms need to survive. If that means the gays taking a back seat, then that's what will happen.

    Posted by: Francis | Sep 29, 2011 12:37:05 PM

  6. I kinda agree with Lisa - as much as I like Glee, I find Kurt to be somewhat of an offensive stereo-type. I understand that he is a great role model for kids to "be who they are" but to be so extreme is a little rediculous. Kurt would be bullied in any school. Period. However, I also think that on top of using the "gay sterotype" with Kurt, Glee falls victim to using each chracter as a blatant stero-type for that "type" of person.

    On a side note, when Kurt starts to sing, I cringe.

    Posted by: C.J. | Sep 29, 2011 12:40:13 PM

  7. @ Francis

    I hate the myth being perpetrated as fact about black people as being more homophobic than whites.

    child boo, your privilege is showing and it ain't cute.

    Posted by: new-new | Sep 29, 2011 12:41:11 PM

  8. Frankly I'm more concerned by the disproportionate number of children on TV who speak like they're members of a varsity debating team or have done twenty years of stand-up comedy on the club circuit. That's orders of magnitude more realistic than a small fluctuation in gay representation.

    Posted by: Mike | Sep 29, 2011 12:49:18 PM

  9. @Francis You have got to be kidding me! The New York/LA bias/focus in TV programming is off the charts. Watch a week's worth of network prime-time programming and you could easily conclude, if that is all the information you had, that virtually the entire population of the United States of America leaves in a few cities on the east and west coasts.

    In fact, any program set outside New York or LA (or occasionally, Chicago or Seattle or somewhere) is so unusual that it will usually be reflected in the name of the series (as it is in "The Middle", for example)....and these programs tend to reflect the lifestyles and attitudes of the (generally younger) people who produce them (almost all of whom live in New York or LA), not the values of the Bible Belt.

    What in the world are you talking about?

    As for the other issue, I didn't say that straight men go out of their way to avoid gays, but the two groups generally don't "embrace" each other, either. If that were the case, then homophobia would be a thing of the past, wouldn't it? (which we all, of course, know, is not the case)

    It is really hard sometimes to have an honest discussion on this board because of all the attempts at propagandizing and political posturing by so many--I don't know why people feel compelled to do that when we are just talking amongst ourselves, but maybe they think the wider world is watching by reading this blog and alter their comments accordingly.

    I tell you what, though. When I see a group of 6 guys, 3 of them gay and 3 of them straight, getting together on a Sunday afternoon to watch the NFL games on TV over beers and pizza--and when I stop hearing young men, in particular, constantly using the term "That's so gay" in an obviously derogatory manner, then I will believe your claim. Not until then.

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 29, 2011 12:59:28 PM

  10. RICK - reading your 1st post I am in complete agreement. I ripped off mine, typos and all, because I was also dealing with a 4YO who refused to put on 'baby' sneakers (he's NOT a baby) and I needed to get him off to PreSchool. BTAIM, in your second post you made it clear when you said ... "...I started befriending guys I liked.." and that's exactly my point - that's how it starts and I've seen that attitude progress over the last few years more and more. In life, the majority of guys are straight and hold preconceived attitudes but that is changing - there are those who will panic and those are clearly not the people you want in life. But you don't give up because there are just as many normal guys who will not panic, won't give a damn, will sluff it off - especially if they have a connection with you in some way - through other friends, work, hobbies, profession, career, sports, etc.

    And that's what I would like to see reflected by more gay characters on TV. Normal guys who just happen to be gay. We may see that on "The Good Wife" because they are giving Alicia's gay brother a lover/partner. Glee is bringing in a new gay character to break Kurt and Blaine up and according to writers, will be the stereo-typical scheming queen. I would much prefer Glee offer us a normal gay couple who end the school year still in love with each other, get engaged and move to NY to begin their respective careers/lifes. Not gonna happen - and that's annoying.

    Those are some quick thoughts, sadly my morning is slipping away much to fast... :-)

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Sep 29, 2011 1:14:44 PM

  11. What the hell is this? News or an editorial? This is about the most unscientific expression of an opinion I can fathom; the conclusion (which is pretty offensive) is absolutely unsupported by anything other than the fact that some popular shows have gay characters.

    If you're going to get into opinion writing, learn how to do it. Andy, this guy is hurting the integrity of your website with crap like this.

    Posted by: Ummmmm | Sep 29, 2011 1:55:24 PM

  12. Whoa! Again, let's save the vitriol for our true enemies. Cavalier - yes. Editorializing - yes. Not what we're used to - sure. Let's chalk this up to a (new guy?) mis-step and fight those who would have us dead.

    Posted by: Scott | Sep 29, 2011 2:29:58 PM

  13. OS2Guy, we get it. You have a family. No need to always share your "moments" with us. I think the lady doth protest too much.

    The rest of you please continue with your misogyny.

    Posted by: sugarrhill | Sep 29, 2011 3:17:45 PM

  14. I'm glad others on the site recognize what a groan-worthy blogger Andrew Belonsky is. I can only hope that Andy is reading these comments as well. With so many great writers out there to choose from, why do we have to subjected to this guy? His POV is usually facile (in this case, misguided and borderline offensive), and more than anything, completely unnecessary.

    Posted by: Reggie | Sep 29, 2011 4:26:56 PM

  15. "Tons of disposable income"? I must have misplaced mine.

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 29, 2011 4:55:36 PM

  16. Sugarhill

    Urgh thanks for your rude contribution about a commenter!? I prefer his comments over yours any day and better still-it was funny! I talk about being black or British or my experience at home and this is what makes the commenters on this blog interesting and personal.

    Posted by: Rowan | Sep 29, 2011 5:12:48 PM

  17. Rick

    I'm giving you facts, not opinion. Just go on any of those blogs and see the comments I read, then make your judgement. This isn't opinion, it's fact.

    If gays keep on basing opinions based on their narrow world and thinking everyone loves Glee, they are seriously mistaken.

    And as a black guy living in London, I do agree that having a black person as part of the cast of Friends would be ridiculous BUT without a doubt you would have different ethnicities coming through, esp black people.

    But trust, in London, we are more mixed then you guys interracially but there are still so many groups that don't mix.

    Liberals mix but your Friend people who are more mainstream, less open minded and cookie cutter-it really is color based. Sad but true.

    Posted by: Rowan | Sep 29, 2011 5:18:51 PM

  18. I would like to see more gay characters in drama and action shows (I think Glee pretty much covers the musical/comedy spectrum) In Sci-Fi channel "Warehouse 13th" introduced a gay hero but the writers really did not know what to do with him.

    Posted by: jaragon | Sep 29, 2011 5:55:27 PM

  19. Oy lord here come the gender police to tell us what is a stereotype and what's realistic. Please rain down your wisdom upon us :b

    Posted by: MaddM@ | Sep 29, 2011 7:56:25 PM

  20. I think I am most confused by the assumption that gay people would choose to watch TV shows simply because they feature gay characters. Maybe I'm a bad gay but I choose to watch TV shows because they have quality actors, crisp writing, and engaging plots.

    Posted by: Harrison | Sep 29, 2011 7:56:36 PM

  21. "It is really hard sometimes to have an honest discussion on this board because of all the attempts at propagandizing and political posturing by so many--I don't know why people feel compelled to do that when we are just talking amongst ourselves, but maybe they think the wider world is watching by reading this blog and alter their comments accordingly."

    It's not propagandizing from us, it's simple fact. My three closest friends are straight males; indeed most of my friendship circle is comprised of straight males. My sexuality is just one aspect of me, and they're cognizant enough to realize that.

    Yes there are plenty of homophobic males of all ages out there, but there are also plenty of straight men who just don't care.

    Honestly, I've been derisive of you and your past misogynistic, heterophobic, and racist comments. But I feel more than a little sorry for you now. It sounds like you experience little good in your life and you assume that everyone else experiences the same. But we all don't. And maybe if you try keeping an open mind for a change - and actually believing people when they tell you that there's something better - then you can start experiencing it for yourself.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 29, 2011 8:39:12 PM

  22. When there are more gays to justify the commercials between the segments you will see more gays on television. As the Hispanic population grew in the US, more Hispanic characters showed up on television.

    Networks are all about money or else they wouldn't have gotten rid of All My Children :(

    That said, I think that while "Ellen" isn't a "gay show" she doesn't hide from it, is very open about it, and reaches middle America--even those pesky right wing Christians watch Ellen. She's probably the most powerful talk show host going now that O's out of the way.

    When Anderson stops doing news just to do his show...he will come out and that will be good "gay" television.

    Posted by: Rin | Sep 29, 2011 8:53:28 PM

  23. @Rick

    You were doubting that gay men and straight men can hang out (Francis's circle of friends example). Here is why you are having problems and he is not:

    It would be great if we were at the point where men could just explore and experiment different kinds of relationships with other men, sexual and otherwise, without a stigma being attached--that is, in fact, my overriding goal--but I am really, really skeptical that we are anywhere near that point.


    Just as you are gay and wouldn't have sex with a woman, those truly straight guys are straight. Francis probably gets that. When people think you don't respect their feelings or boundaries...they choose not to hang out with you anymore.

    If I tried to have sex with my gay male friends it would be a violation of trust and their boundaries. It would be wrong.

    Francis probably lets his straight dude friends talk about Megan Fox or burping or Shelby cobras or music or downhill mountain biking...or...well...whatever without trying to convince them that in spite of his obvious set orientation that theirs should not be so rigid or set.

    Many straight guys have this "idea" that gay men are trying to "turn" them, when they find that this is not the case they open up more to the buddy thing.

    If you want to have 3 out of 6 straight guys as your friends like Francis then quit trying to talk them out of their sexual preference. I mean, would you appreciate it if women did that to you?

    Friendship begins and ends with respect.

    Posted by: Rin | Sep 29, 2011 9:04:58 PM

  24. @RIN Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gay goes in one box and straight goes in the other and there is no ambiguity or in between.

    You know, one of the two examples I gave was of a "straight" guy who, despite his "straightness" allowed me to give him a massage one night when we were out camping, and later in the visit, when we were back at his house--a few days later--he looked at me when I got out of the shower and was wrapped in a towel and nothing more......and later that evening crawled into bed with me, claiming that he only wanted to "sleep" (uh-huh).....well, long story short, his unceasing erections (and orgasms)revealed him as anything other than "straight"....but he gradually pulled away from me and cut off contact, got married, and had children.

    Do I respect what he did?

    Hell f'in NO. He did not give us a chance because, despite his obvious bisexuality and his liberal social and political leanings, he retreated into the "I am straight" and even had the gall to say "I am just not attracted to you" after having had wild sex with me. He was not "truly straight"--to use your expression--any more than the vast majority of men are.

    You see, that is how denial works in so many men because it is what the culture forces all of us to do. We cannot just be ourselves in all our complexity--we have to put ourselves in a box--to the detriment of all.

    In any case, you and Nat and others misinterpreted my comment by over-personalizing it. There was the personal element, embodied in the story I just told, but there was also--separate from that--a larger societal observation--and these guys know exactly what I am talking about, even though they are pretending not to.

    It depends on how you define "friends". In this culture, men don't really have friends--they have "buddies"--and that is what you just described (i.e. Keep your distance emotionally and talk only about impersonal subjects, etc. etc.)

    I can do that and do and I have plenty of straight "buddies", but I don't regard that as friendship.....

    But you know as I do--and you have revealed this in your previous posts--that effeminate behavior is not acceptable among straight men....hell, everybody knows that, so these same guys (like Nat) that are railing against my "misogyny" (i.e. effeminacy) would not be compatible with mainstream male culture.

    Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 30, 2011 10:36:57 AM

  25. Well, Rin, one of my straight male friends is as you describe. The stereotypical straight man, says dude a lot, loves the Atlanta Braves, talks about girls, and he likes rap music. He doesn't burp or fart openly, I don't befriend douchebags, lol. You're totally right, though, I let him do his straight boy thing, we have fun and talk about whatever, he's just a cool guy. We actually have watched NFL games together with other friends, RICK, you know, a "straight boy" activity. And, ultimately, if you have a personality beyond your sexuality, if you're a nice, interesting person, people will gravitate towards you, and sexuality becomes irrelevant. If you have hangups and insecurities, people will read that.

    Of course, a lot of straight men are total idiots. But not all are and to typecast all straight guys as bigoted or ultimately uncomfortable with gay people is most certainly heterophobic.

    My other two straight friends are more of the artsy, hip type. I don't try to have sex with any of the three, I don't ask or even have the inclination to wonder if they're secretly bisexual, we hug when we greet and they don't act like I have cooties, I've spent nights at the house of two of them frequently, and I guess they aren't paranoid about what the homophobic segment of society thinks about gay/straight relationships. Buddies, friendship, you can put whatever title you please on it, I'm very close with these guys, known them for years, and literally never has my sexuality been an issue.

    BTW, Rick, I'm not really overly masculine, not fem, but not a macho jock either. I'm Maybe that's why I and other gay men here do have straight friends. Also, I don't stereotype all straight men and assume they like or behave a certain way solely because they're attracted to the opposite sex. But hey, believe what you want. I really couldn't care less.

    Posted by: Francis | Sep 30, 2011 11:32:49 AM

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