LGBT+ characters have been a part of TV for decades but the medium hasn’t always handled the representation of LGBT+ people with care and delicacy. Since long before Chandler “KISSED A GUY!” and Daffyd was “the only gay in the village”, we existed in TV largely as a point of humour. Now, this is most likely due to fear and lack of understanding that we faced but even shows with more fleshed out characters often missed the mark with representation.
Thankfully, the world has moved on and a wider representation of LGBT+ culture and identity is now becoming a very natural part of TV.
It seems that most popular shows now have an LGBT+ character, and not just in the background or in a stereotypical way; the token gay in the show is not a thing anymore, and most gay characters now are fully realised human beings, with stories and personalities beyond their sexualities. Hey, just like real life!
With characters such as Aaron Dingle of ‘Emmerdale’ fame, facets of the reality of the LGBT+ community have been touched upon in a caring, thoughtful way. Aaron’s character was never treated as just a gay man, he is a mechanic, and a bit of a lad; but his coming out and eventual acceptance of himself was shown with such accuracy that only the staunchest of homophobes would ever have a problem with it.
To this day, Aaron is still giving us the platform within the soap opera world to show that the struggle is real, we have real problems and real successes just like everybody else.
Even shows such as ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’, which is well known for its black humour, have taken moments out of their showtime to treat LGBT+ issues with sensitivity; check out Mac’s interpretive dance scene in the episode “Mac Finds His Pride”, spoiler warning, prepare to find yourself ugly-crying by the end.
The struggle for acceptance and the pain of keeping yourself hidden from loved ones is portrayed in such a raw, emotional way and they even weave it around the show’s signature humour throughout the episode. With the last line of the episode from Danny DeVito’s ‘Frank’ being “Oh my god… I get it… I get it…”, a character who could not relate to LGBT+ people at all came full circle and found acceptance.
Seriously, watch this episode. This one moment shows more depth of thought and consideration than you would ever believe could come from a show which main premise in the beginning was about a group of terrible people.
LGBT+ characters and representation are now so varied and widespread. So many shows that the whole world watches have included LGBT+ people as a point of normality.
Rosa Diaz coming out as bisexual in ‘Brooklyn 99’, Tara finding love and loss in the wasteland of ‘The Walking Dead’, even the casual dropping of growing up male by “bitchy trampoline” Lady Cassandra O’Brien from Doctor Who (aired on the BBC way back in 2005!!); so many of these moments come across so naturally that you could almost miss them.
Showrunners seem to be going to great effort not to just shoehorn us into popular culture, but equally include us, which makes their shows seem more realistic as well.
So whilst we’ve struggled with misrepresentation throughout the years, finally, TV shows are showing LGBT+ people as what we really are: people. As real life feeds into the media which feeds back into real life, thanks in part to these shows, we can be ourselves and be accepted. Hell, the amount of straight people who watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye is a testament to that.
There’s still a way to go, what with real-world issues such as the anti-LGBT+ legislation recently passed in Brunei happening right now; however it is comforting to know that we are being represented in the right way by a medium which is part of so many people’s lives.
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