While there is still plenty of work to be done in terms of diverse LGBT+ representation on mainstream television, this year saw a number of characters from beloved TV shows both old and new emerge as queer favourites. Here are seven mainstream shows that were not afraid to put LGBT+ characters into the spotlight.
The CW’s series starred Melissa Benoist as the lead, but supporting cast member and activist Nicole Maines made headlines earlier this year as television’s first trans superhero, Nia Nal aka Dreamer. Maines spoke about the need for trans representation in the mainstream saying: “I think it is necessary to educate folks on trans issues and to make them aware of trans identities and normalise it because it is normal. But when you’re shielded from something and it’s actively censored it takes a negative connotation.”
The Walking Dead
When comic book writer Robert Kirman confirmed that Paul Rovia, aka Jesus, was indeed a gay man, he became the sixth LGBT+ character on the show, joining Tara, Alisha, Aaron, Eric and Denise. In the past, actor Tom expressed openness to the possibility of a gay Jesus saying: “What I find interesting from the comics is that it’s not a big deal. He just is who he is.”
Hulu’s live action adaption of the Marvel Comic Book Series saw the character Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) emerge as a queer hero. Fans of the show shipped the picture perfect superhero with Nico, and Karolina’s attraction for women was made clear when the two shared a kiss in the episode ‘Doomsday’.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Netflix’s reboot of Sabrina became insanely popular following its Halloween release. Fans were quick to binge watch the show and Sabrina’s pansexual cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and best friend Susie (Lachlan Watson) were firm favourites with the show’s queer following.
Watson, who is non-binary, spoke candidly about Susie’s identity: “I talk so much about myself and my identity as a non-binary person and I think they listened, and if anything it helped them understand that labels aren’t everything.”
Ryan Murphy’s drama series Pose smashed records as it included the largest cast of trans actors for a narrative television series. Inspired by Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, the show followed the lives of those involved in the African-American and Latinx ball scene of New York in the ‘80s. The series, which featured over 50 trans characters, was met with critical acclaim, with The Guardian calling it “TV at it’s most fearless”.
The Haunting of Hill House
The modern re-imagining of Shirley Jackson’s novel saw middle-child Theo crush the tropes that haunt queer people in horror. With sensitivity and bravery, Theo soon became one of the genre’s few lesbian heroes. Katie Siegel spoke to People about what Jackson’s character meant to her: “She is just an icon. I felt like I had huge shoes to fill.”
This year saw Riverdale’s Cheryl (Madeline Petsch) confirm many fans’ theories that she is bisexual when she locked lips with Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). Petsch spoke to Nylon about what her character’s sexuality meant to her: “I’m really happy to bring bisexuality to TV, because you don’t often see it that often on television, especially with women. I find that so interesting because most of my friends – my female friends – are bisexual. It’s just the majority of our generation, and I don’t think you see it on television still.”
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