Image courtesy of FOX TV.
Growing up, the TV shows Will and Grace and Friends taught me two lessons about LGBT people.
Lesson One: Some people are attracted to the same sex. There are men like Will and Jack from Will and Grace who like to date men, and there are women like Susan and Carol from Friends who are partners and raise a kid together.
Lesson Two: Being attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean that you’re abnormal or weird. Love is love.
But I’ve noticed recently that lesbians are underrepresented on TV. The majority of LGBT characters are ‘flamboyant’ gay male stereotypes, and it makes me wonder if today’s viewers will not be able to learn the same lessons of tolerance and understanding that I did.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) 2011-2012 report, Where are We on TV, lesbians represent 22 per cent of LGBT characters, while gay males make up 54 per cent.
Only 14 per cent of LGBT characters are bisexual females and 6 per cent are bisexual males.
With two new comedy sitcoms on primetime that feature the gay male stereotype and no new shows featuring lesbian characters, it doesn’t look like this bias will change any time soon.
The New Normal, a sitcom on NBC, is a family comedy that follows the unique relationship that gay couple David and Bryan have with their pregnant surrogate mother, Goldie.
Just like two of TV’s most popular gay male couples, Modern Family’s Cameron and Mitchel and Glee’s Kurt and Blaine, The New Normal is continuing to represent a gay male couple as one member being more ‘feminine’ and comedic, while the other takes on the more ‘masculine’ role
Miguel Lobo, a gay first year student at McMaster University believes the media is causing people to establish a contingency between being flamboyant and being gay when in reality, one doesn’t exist.
“If anything, there’s a correlation between the two, but one does not cause the other, ” he says.
Lobo thinks society holds different views of homosexuality between the genders because of the ideal that every girl should have a ‘fun and flamboyant’ gay best friend.
Lesbian relationships, on the other hand, are often only used to sexualize a TV show rather than showing a relationship, and are equally as stereotypical.
“The ideal lesbian couple for society is two hot chicks who have a lot of PDA,” he says. “Any lesbians who fall out of this category tend to make people uncomfortable. Almost every girl wants a ‘gay best friend’, but the term ‘lesbian best friend’ never really comes up.”
CBS’ new comedy, Partners, puts a new twist on the gay best friend cliché with a show about two childhood friends, Joe and Louis. The show follows them at the architecture firm they work at, and is focused on the consequences of Louis’s weekly dramatic interjections into Joe and his fiancée’s relationship.
Christian Bellissimo, a gay life science student at McMaster, says these representations of characters aren’t necessarily bad, but leave little room for diversity.
“It gives audiences the idea that if you are a gay man, you have to fit into one of those two categories: masculine or feminine,” he says.
In reality, the LGBT community is just as diverse as the straight community.
While a divide within masculinity and femininity exists within gay couples on television, lesbian couples portrayed experience the opposite.
Both Glee and Grey’s Anatomy feature lesbian and bisexual characters that are very feminine, supporting the ‘lipstick lesbian’ stereotype. The two shows feature same-sex relationships consisting of a bisexual female and a lesbian character.
Although there are many stereotypes within the media’s portrayal of homosexuality (as there are in almost every TV show) the inclusion of LGBT characters in mainstream media still helps to break down the negative stigma that some audiences may have associated with homosexuality.
Now all that needs to be done is to break down the stereotypes. M