I think Hollywood is constantly facing criticism. Many people don’t agree with the way things are handled. One issue that Hollywood and the media is always being criticized on is the lack of representation. Many groups are underrepresented in TV and movies, including the lack of representation of the LGBTQ community.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I often find myself wondering where I am in the media. When I think back to when I was a teenager, I remember trying to figure out that in my mind. I realize now, that if I had seen more people like myself in the media, it wouldn’t have taken me as long to accept the fact that I am bisexual.
With shows like The 100, Orange is the New Black, Sense 8, and Degrassi: Next Class, it is clear that there are more queer characters in storylines, but it’s still not enough.
Andrea Houston is a Ryerson professor, known for developing the Queer Media course in 2016. She said that although representation is not where it should be, it’s better that it’s ever been before.
“Historically we see gay characters that would die before the end of the film or the end of the series, or would be relegated to a sub character, and this is the first time we are seeing fully realized multifaceted (LGBTQ) characters,” said Houston.
There is a large spectrum when it comes to the LGBTQ community, not only with sexuality, but also gender. There are so many ways that people can identify, the spectrum is endless. Non-binary, agender, transgender, these are just a few of the different genders that many could identify with, and none of them have a place in film and TV. The spectrum of sexuality is even more vast, including sexualities like, pansexual, asexual, polysexual, etc.
We are now seeing more writers try to introduce not only gay or lesbian characters, but also bisexual and transgender characters. I think we have a long way to go when it comes to including LGBTQ people in the media, because although we have characters that are transgender, they’re not nearly as represented as they should be.
“I think Orange is the New Black is a really profoundly powerful show for LGBTQ visibility, especially trans-visibility. Laverne Cox has done more for trans-education and the most representation,” said Houston, adding that the show also opened the door for characters that are also people of colour.
Andres Herrera, an image arts student at Ryerson, is the events lead of RyePride, an on-campus group dedicated to the LGBTQ students on campus.
“There’s no depth beyond the basic fact that they are queer.The issue is not even the lack of representation but the fact that the representation that we are getting isn’t suffice to queer people,” says Herrera.
Herrera said movies like Moonlight were an incredibly large step for LGBTQ representation especially in film. It was the first time you had ever seen people of colour, and queer on the big screen.
It’s important to note that, not all people in the LGBTQ community are white. The community is so vast, with people from all different racial backgrounds.
“Just having a person that’s gay isn’t enough, you must be able to talk about things like gender. You must be able to talk about people who are on the spectrum of gender and don’t know where they land, as well as the spectrum of sexuality. Media has hugely been always gay, lesbian, or straight that there’s never been any room for people who are bisexual to feel represented because it’s very black or white,” said Herrera.
“Often, the experience of a white queer person is different from the experience of a queer person who is black.” said Kelly Kitagawa, a fourth-year RTA student.
Moonlight was one of the first films where writers were taking into consideration that there is a need for more inclusivity when it comes to the representation of the LGBTQ community. Not everyone is white, not everyone is gay.
I think the main issue surrounding this is that the people who are in control of what shows and films get greenlit, do not understand what it means to have actual queer characters in film and TV.
Most writers are straight white males, who don’t understand the impact that not having a queer character has. “I think there’s always some writers are just very tepid and it’s hard for them to touch the subject, I think because they don’t identify as that,” said Herrera.
Even more so, they don’t understand how bad it is to have a queer character, just to kill them off. By doing this, it allows the media to promote an invisibility to the LGBTQ community.
“Killing off every queer woman in television is not a good thing and how that affects actual queer women in their day to day lives, showing that you literally can’t be happy if you’re queer, is not a fun lesson to teach people,” said Kitagawa.
Every year, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) studies TV characters and releases a “Where We Are On TV” report. This report keeps track of the progress of diversity on TV for that year. They include data about LGBTQ, gender, and racial diversity.
“While much progress has been made and TV remains far ahead of film in terms of LGBTQ representation, it is important to recognize where programming is still falling short,” said GLAAD.
While there are still many things that need to change when it comes to representation of the LGBTQ community in film and TV, I think it’s important to note that things are changing for the better. Many teens can now turn on the television or Netflix and relate to at least one character from the show. Teens now have a place in media.
“It’s tough, but I think the biggest thing is making sure there are more queer people in position of leadership, and people who are in positions to make sure things get greenlit or not, queer people who are able to be like ‘hey keep this story in here it’s important’ or people who are able to put money into things,’” said Kitagawa.
Herrera said most people who make movies are cis white males. “Life isn’t just your experience,” she said. “Everyone deserves to find themselves in a character, to watch someone experience the same struggles and to feel visible. We are getting there.”