LGBTQ Visibility On Our Screens in 2020

by HRC Staff

Binge watching TV shows, streaming the latest movies, listening to music and hopping on Zoom calls filled up most of our 2020 as we quarantined and practiced social distancing. This year surely had its ups and downs, but we also saw LGBTQ visibility expand across our screens, which is always something to celebrate.

Here are some of our 2020 pop culture highlights:

We Said Goodbye to “Schitt’s Creek”

After six seasons of “Schitt’s Creek” father and son duo Eugene and Dan Levy closed this chapter of the Rose family’s story. The finale episode, “Happy Ending,” featured the wedding of David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid), putting LGBTQ representation front and center and delivering an incredible love story for our favorite couple. “Schitt’s Creek” went on to prove awards season is in fact the best season when it made Emmys history by breaking the record for most wins in a single season for a comedy with nine awards in total.

“Modern Family” and “Will & Grace” Aired Their Final Episodes

“Modern Family” wrapped up its 11th season after more than a decade-long run on ABC. Throughout the series, we saw Mitchell and Cam celebrate their marriage and continue to build a family through the adoption of their daughter. “Modern Family” was a show dedicated to the ups and downs of three diverse families who consistently put compassion, growth and love above all else.

The revival of “Will & Grace” also came to a close this year after its original airing from 1998 to 2006. The show was one of the first to include gay characters as protagonists and in its return continued to expand LGBTQ representation by countering stereotypes and offering renewed visibility in media.

Bi+ and Non-Binary Representation Increased Across the Board

2020 marked plenty of firsts for bi+ and non-binary representation on our screens. Here are just a few of our favorite moments!

  • “Batwoman” cast Javicia Leslie for its upcoming season, and she will make history as the first Black and bisexual woman to play the lead heroine. The season is set to air in January 2021 on the CW.
  • “Riverdale” continued to show queer love stories through the relationships of Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley), as well as Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Tapez (Vanessa Morgan). Off-screen, we saw star actress Lili Reinhart come out as bisexual in June, and she shared the importance of normalizing bi representation across the board.
  • Non-binary actor Lachlan Watson broke ground with their portrayal of Theo in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” We had the opportunity to honor Lachlan earlier this year for their work advocating for trans and non-binary youth nationwide.
  • “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show, features character James Sullivan played by Theo Germaine, a non-binary actor. When asked about auditioning for non-binary roles, Germaine shared, “At some point, when I was around 22, I just stopped. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do whatever I want and I hope that some other people follow suit.’

Movies Dove Into Queer Characters and Storylines

Although we didn’t find ourselves in the theatre much this year, queer movies still flourished in 2020.

  • “The Christmas House” is a Hallmark holiday movie featuring Brandon (Jonathan Bennett) and Jake (Brad Harder), who are awaiting a call about the adoption of their first child.
  • “The Half of It,” Netflix’s new coming-of-age film, follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) falling for classmate Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire).
  • Another must-watch holiday movie, “Happiest Season” follows couple Abby Holland (Kristen Stewart) and Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis) as they navigate coming out to Harper’s conservative parents.
  • “Welcome to Chechnya” is a documentary about activists fighting against the country’s violent anti-LGBTQ government campaign. HRC joined filmmaker David France in calling for these human rights violations to stop and perpetrators to be held accountable.
  • “Disclosure” is a Netflix documentary by Sam Feder about Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people and the impact of representation on the trans and non-binary community.

LGBTQ Musicians Thrived

Queer musicians released some incredible albums throughout the year and our screen time continued to increase as we streamed their music on repeat.

  • Lady Gaga, “Chromatica”
  • Miley Cyrus, “Plastic Hearts”
  • Halsey, “Manic”
  • Kehlani,“It Was Good Until It Wasn’t”
  • Adam Lambert, “Velvet”
  • Sam Smith, “Love Goes''
  • Phoebe Bridgers, “Punisher”
  • Brittany Howard, “Jaime”

Additionally, openly queer artists earned Grammy nominations, giving even greater representation to LGBTQ people in music. Read more in Billboard.

Inclusive Zoom Backgrounds for Friends, Family, Teachers and More

Zoom backgrounds were a hit in 2020 and also provided the opportunity to make virtual classrooms, meeting rooms and friend group chats inclusive to all. HRC joined in creating digital backgrounds featuring different pride flags to rep during any call. We also highlighted the importance and impact of teachers and other youth-serving professionals using inclusive virtual backgrounds to show their affirmation of LGBTQ youth.