HRC Blog

Growing Presence of LGBT Characters on TV

Post submitted by Chloe Stokes, HRC Digital Media Intern.

As the number of LGBT characters on television continues to grow, HRC acknowledges the vast importance of visibility in the media. Developing realistic and positive portrayals of same-sex couples and LGBT characters leads to the normalization of LGBT visibility on television, and projecting the image directly into American living rooms creates greater acceptance of the LGBT community.

modern family

Modern Family, ABC’s comedy series that is in its fifth season, was one of the first television shows that presented a gay couple, Cam and Mitch, in a realistic way. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitch, is a longtime supporter of HRC, and has partnered with the organization on several different projects. Ferguson, alongside his TV husband, Eric Stonestreet, spoke at HRC’s 2010 National Dinner.

Glee, a musical comedy-drama series that airs on Fox, tackles issues from sexuality, to bullying, and more, and features several LGBT characters. Several members of the cast spoke at the 2009 HRC National Dinner, including openly LGBT advocates Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch. Glee has been lauded as one of the first television shows to feature LGBT youth, an often underrepresented group in media today.

 

Orange Is The New Black, a Netflix original series that follows the life of bisexual Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, offers a character-focused plotline that portrays LGBT women as complex and real individuals. The series has received enormous praise for its representation of the LGBT community and its calls for an end to discrimination. Taryn Manning, who plays ‘Pennsatucky’ on the series, is a participant in HRC’s Love Conquers Hate campaign, which features a diverse group of celebrities, athletes, and politicians to raise awareness about the status of the LGBT community in Russia.

The Fosters, which airs on ABC Family, is a family drama series that follows a family composed of a lesbian couple raising three children, one of which is biological, and two which are adopted. The cast has partnered with RaiseAChild in their “Let Love Define Family” campaign, which encourages adoption by all people, including those who identify as LGBT. Jennifer Lopez, a longtime HRC supporter, and her production company, Nuyorican Productions, developed the project for ABC Family. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, who act as the lesbian couple on the show, made an appearance alongside the rest of the cast at HRC’s 2013 National Dinner, to honor Jennifer Lopez, who was the 2013 Ally for Equality Award recipient.

In an unprecedented move, Disney has introduced its first same-sex couple, on the children’s show Good Luck Charlie. It is especially important for LGBT youth to see not only gay characters on television, but also same-sex couples and families. Disney’s decision was unexpected by a lot of viewers, who associated the channel with traditional family values. “Like all Disney Channel programming, it was developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness,” a Disney Channel spokesperson told TV Guide last summer.

These characters, shows, and networks are contributing to the growing exposure of the LGBT community in the media. As their impacts continue to be seen, we look forward to the increasing visibility of LGBT life in television and film.  

Check out these stars at HRC events:

Modern Family: Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson:

Glee: Jane Lynch:

The Fosters: Teri Polo and Sherri Saum

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