By far the most fun line in the entire GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Network Responsibility Index released last week had to do with a poor performer from the 2011-2012 review, History Channel.
Under the baleful picture of a 40-something man wearing what looks like the top of a militaristic space suit is the phrase: “The only History program that consistently featured LGBT-inclusive content this year was the reality series Full Metal Jousting.”
Everything about this sentence is interesting, starting with the fact that there is a show called Full Metal Jousting. The GLAAD report highlights that the show’s horse trainer Jay Nodar “was singularly responsible for almost all of History’s [gay] inclusive hours this year.”
The annual report by the advocacy group looks at how much screen time broadcasters and major cable networks give to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people over a given period, and ranks the networks accordingly.
This year, the CW, ABC and Fox scored the highest ratings for broadcasters (though none earned the group’s “Excellent” rating), and Showtime, ABC Family and FX topped the cable channels.
CBS and History were at the bottom for their respective categories.
The report is long—probably a lot longer than you might think. Sprinkled within are charts of LGBT representation broken down by race, which is where some more interesting data comes in.
First off, by far the most represented LGBT subset on TV is gay white men, according to the report. Lesbians show up less than half the time as their male counterparts on most networks, and transgender Asian/Pacific Islanders are the rarest of finds.
Generally, any LGBT ethnicity other than white is an extremely underrepresented category across the channels. Some networks, such as the CW and USA, buck the trend, but in general the study provided a monochromatic barometer of what LGBT looks like on television today. Gay. Male. White.
“The highest percentages of black and lesbian LGBT impressions were on USA (62% and 78%, respectively), thanks singlehandedly to lesbian agent Diana Berrigan on White Collar,” the report reads.
So, if TV is any standard, one outsider designation at a time is perhaps enough to max out contemporary America’s level of comfort.
The release of the report follows recent flak over an NBC affiliate in Utah that refused to air The New Normal, a show about a gay male couple trying to have a child with a surrogate.
The refusal caused a minor uproar, until another Utah station this weekend said it would air the show in the state. GLAAD was also partnering with two Utah advocacy groups to host screenings of the show.
As the Democratic National Convention puts a gay rights plank in its party platform, are LGBT issues part of a cultural divide in the U.S.? Leave some thoughts in COMMENTS.