GLAAD released its annual “Where We Are on TV” report on Thursday, revealing that LGBTQ representation declined year-over-year, at least in part due to pandemic-related production delays and cancellations.
The annual study found that 9.1% of series regulars (70 of 773) on broadcast in the 2020-21 TV season are LGBTQ, including characters like “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s” Mo (Alex Newell) and The CW’s new Batwoman, played by Javicia Leslie. That’s down from the record high of 10.2% in 2019-20.
The study notes that the conclusion of series like “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Empire,” as well as the untimely cancellation of ABC’s “Stumptown,” took away a number of major LGBTQ characters.
In terms of sheer quantity, LGBTQ characters were also in short supply on cable and streaming this season, though the study does note that the total number of shows on the air (and, therefore, the total number of characters) decreased year-over-year due to the pandemic. Several shows featuring multiple LGBTQ characters, including “The L Word: Generation Q,” “Euphoria” and BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” were among those delayed until next season.
“In the midst of a destructive pandemic, a long overdue cultural reckoning with racial injustice, and a transition into a new political era for this country, representation matters more than ever as people turn to entertainment storytelling for connection and escape,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s President and CEO. “This time of unprecedented change matched with increased demand represents an opportunity to break new ground with stories we have not seen before and create LGBTQ characters that do not reinforce harmful stereotypes.”
GLAAD also looked at the number of characters living with HIV, finding just three on all of television — all from FX’s “Pose.” The advocacy group issued a challenge to the industry to introduce at least three more characters living with HIV each season to help reduce stigma surrounding the diagnosis.
“Hollywood must tell these stories that not only entertain, but which also have the opportunity to inform and educate its audiences,” said DaShawn Usher, GLAAD’s Program Officer – Communities of Color and HIV and AIDS advocate. “While there have been so many advances and developments in HIV education, prevention, and treatment, I cannot say the same when it comes to Hollywood telling these diverse and compelling stories.”
Read the full report here.