Friday, November 9, 2012

Fun Friday: Character Demographics This Season

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

For seventeen years now, GLAAD has been tracking the number of LGBT characters in scripted programming. You can see their entire report here, which is full of fantastic facts and figures. I wanted to share some highlights, though, as the numbers are pretty interesting.

Their estimate for the 2012-2013 television season (defined as any show premiering 6/1/12-5/31/13) is that 4.4% (of 701, meaning 31) of all regular characters (on new shows and returning shows) on the five major networks are LGBT. An additional 19 recurring characters are LGBT as well. Cable adds another 35 regulars and 26 recurring.
Where We Are On TV 2012-2013 Season

For comparison, they counted only 1.1% of all regular characters on network programming being LGBT in 2007.

Some other facts from the report that stood out to me:

- Women make up 45% of television characters this season.

- Of the network LGBT characters, 61% are gay men, 20% are lesbian women, 14% bisexual women, and 4% bisexual men. On cable, 49% are gay men, 27% are lesbian women, 15% are bisexual women, and 8% are bisexual men. Of the cable LGBT characters, 4% are transgender, a category not addressed yet this year on network TV.

- Glee and True Blood tie for the highest number of LGBT characters at six each!

- Showtime has 12 regular LGBT characters, the highest of any cable network.

- The CW only had one LGBT character at the start of the 2011 season, but now they have four. Speaking of The CW, 83% of their characters are white. (For comparison 72% of NBC's characters are white.) Latinos are specifically under-represented, with only 4% of the characters on network programming being Latino, despite the US being 16% Latino!

- Last year, only five LGBT characters were "people of color," (POC) but this year there are 14.

- The only network shows this year to have LGBT POC are Bones, Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23, Emily Owens, MD, Glee, The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, The LA Complex, Malibu Country, The Office, Smash, and Suburgatory. Four are Latino, three are Asian/Pacific Islander, and seven are Black.

- On cable, LGBT POC can be found on Anger Management, Army Wives, Enlightened, House of Lies, Major Crimes, Pretty Little Liars, Single Ladies, Superjail!, Teen Wolf, True Blood, and White Collar.

- The number of disabled characters (a population we've looked at before) decreased this year, to just four - one on each of the four largest networks. GLAAD counts characters with "non-apparent disabilities such as cancer or HIV/AIDS" (as does the ADA). [Because the number is so low, I'll name them for those interested: Dr. Robbins on Grey's Anatomy is an amputee, CSI has a character using prosthetic legs, Parenthood has a character with Asperger's, and Artie on Glee uses a wheelchair. Dr. Robbins will be one of only two LGBT characters with disabilities, the other is the diabetic Thor on Nurse Jackie.]

How do these numbers compare with what you thought they were or where you think they should be? 

For starters, I know that I was surprised to see there were shows featuring six LGBT characters, and I'm surprised at how many of the depicted LGBT characters are white.  
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