Why Aren't There More Gay Characters on Network TV?

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Hey TV, where all your gays at? A recent GLAAD study showed that only 3% of characters on the Big Five networks' shows are GLBT. Even worse, out of CBS's 132 series regulars, exactly zero of them fall into any of those categories. In 2009, that is pretty bad. I mean Fox--which is owned by a crazed, right-wing Aussie bandicoot--at least has four lonely gay folks running around on their shows (for a whopping total of 4% of their series regulars). So what gives? Why is it so hard to put queerness on broadcast television?

This is not going to launch into some didactic screed about this country's history of homophobia and the miles and miles we've still left to go before all citizens receive equal treatment and equal rights. I promise it won't. I'm really asking a sincere question. What is so hard about putting gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered characters on a network show? It's 2009 for god's sake, gay marriage is legal in, well, only six states, but still! Progress only ever moves forward, whether people like it or not. So a new America is inevitably emerging. One in which gay folks are just like everybody else. So couldn't television--which has pushed the culture envelope before--be a little ahead of the curve here?

Of course there are certain shows--The Office, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters--that are already telling stories about gay characters with depth and nuance (not just faaaabulous or butch), but it's a really small handful. And that one major network--the biggest broadcast network at that--could carry on these days without having one queer series regular (not even one who's totally othered or stereotyped to the hilt), just feels so... disheartening.

I've no doubt that CBS will get at least a couple gay peeps on the airwaves eventually while the other networks will add more to their rosters. But why they can't just push the whole change thing through a little bit faster is what I don't understand. Popular culture and all widely-devoured media often can and do set the tone for acceptance and openness and all that other good, humanity-affirming stuff for the rest of the country. That CBS would just not bother to pay attention to that is frustrating. And, you know, gay kids need role models and swoony love stories (and all the other fun stuff you get on television) same as straight kids do. TV is a huge part of the national conversation. Why one of its biggest suppliers would just up and wholesale forget about an entire portion of the population is beyond me.

I'm not going to try and speculate as to what the reasons may be for the Eye's big gay blackout, but I can promise that everyone will feel better when it opens its doors to some gay folks. Because you're presenting a more shaded--and thus more realistic--world when you just come out and calmly state the beautiful truth: Some people are like this, others are like that, but who cares, they're all still people. People who can solve crimes or NC some IS things in Los Angeles or expound on theories about the big bang (they could totally make Jim Parsons' character gay without missing a beat) or whatever it is that people on CBS shows are doing these days. Let's hope they get on the ball about this genuinely important issue. 'Cause this situation right now? It's more than a little troubling.

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