Queer representation in TV shows went from strength to strength across numerous genres in 2019. LGBT+ characters and storylines brought fresh perspectives into the spotlight.
This year, representation of queer characters reached an all-time high. According to GLAAD’s the Where We Are On TV annual report, LGBT+ characters on the small screen made up 10.2% of series regulars on shows in the United States.
From the wide selection of queer TV shows, these are the standout moments of 2019:
Tales of the City
The heart warming series Tales of the City premiered in June 2019. This show brought together powerhouses of talent with a cast consisting of Ellen Page, Bob the Drag Queen, Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney and Murray Bartlett. This show was a celebration of queer love and family. The pilot was truly a phenomenal way to kick off the show.
Negative Man signing ‘People Like Us’ by Kelly Clarkson with a drag queen called Danny is only the tip of the iceberg for this show. Throughout season 1, Negative Man dealt with living as a closeted air force pilot and his new life as a superhero. Doom Patrol is a campy fun entry to the hall of superhero TV shows, never afraid to take creative risks and try something different.
We are still not over the fact that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came to an end in 2019, however the finale was a brilliant send-off for the characters. Not only were fans treated to a stellar final episode but also got a live musical show on top of that. Pete Gardner, who played Darryl Whitefeather, singing ‘Getting Bi’ in a Broadway setting was incredible and he looked like he was having the time of his life.
Boulet Brothers’ Dragula
2019 was a sensational year for Boulet Brothers’ Dragula with queens from all backgrounds competing for the title of Drag Supermonster. On season 3, the show welcomed the first drag king to ever compete on a reality drag competition TV show. Landon Cider was a great addition to the competition who continuously created jaw dropping looks.
Albert Square was packed with LGBT+ characters this year. In May, it was announced that the show would host its first LGBT+ Pride parade. The relationship between Gurlain and Iqra was an amazing portrayal of a Muslim lesbian love story, which received tons of fan praise.
RuPaul Drag Race UK
“She done already done had herses!” RuPaul brought Drag Race to the UK and the world was left gagging. New queens, a change of destination, and a renovated werkroom and main stage proved to be a perfect combination as the show soared to new heights. Drag Race UK’s premiere season burst onto the small screen with heaps of stunts, charm, confidence and laughs.
Elite returned for their highly anticipated second season with a renewed focus on the relationship between Ander and Omar. Season 2 ramped up the tension and drama to a whole new level. There were twists and turns a plenty.
Steven Universe underwent a massive evolution as it went from short episodes to a full length movie – and Steven has a neck now. ‘Reunited’, an episode which featured the first lesbian wedding on a children’s cartoon show, was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program in 2019. This year also saw the show make a triumphant return in the form of a musical movie.
The Other Two
The hit comedy the Other Two premiered in January, 2019. Making its debut, the show exhibited confidence in the characters and direction it was taking. Through the character of Cary, an aspiring actor, the show found comedy gold within gay culture, from a song called ‘My Brother is Gay and That’s Okay!’ to looking at Instagram culture.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Though the show starts off slow as it builds up the world’s lore, the recent season exploded onto Netflix brimming with universe shattering shocks. The success of the recent season is largely due to Double Trouble, a non-binary shapeshifting mercenary who plants discord wherever they go. This character was a great addition that really tipped the balance of power between characters.
Umbrella Academy premiered in February 2019 and from the pilot to the end, it was a time twisting, dance fueled, and whacky superpowered journey. Though Robert Sheehan’s character Klaus Hargreeves was not initially queer, it became a natural development of the story. In one episode, due to time travelling, Klaus shared a relationship with a man in the past. Sheehan has spoken openly about Klaus being a pansexual character and how labeling him gay “reduces all else about the character.” It will be interesting to see if season 2 explores this further.
After the jaw dropping final episode of season 1, Killing Eve returned to the small screen with a phenomenal follow up. The relationship between Eve and Villanelle was further developed, turning subtext into text while also adding extra layers to their dynamic interactions.
After five seasons, Broad City came to an end in 2019 with a great run of ten episodes that pushed the friendship of Ilana Wexler and Abbi Abrams in hilarious and heartfelt directions. Though Illana’s pansexuality has been a common story line throughout the show, season 5 saw Abbi explore her bisexuality.
Young Justice: Outsiders made a grand return after being absent from the small screen since 2013 and it was totally crash. In many ways, the new season found a balance between the past and finding its own way forward. Halo, a non-binary character imbued with the spirit of alien technology, was very much at the forefront of the season. Throughout Outsiders, Halo struggled to figure out who they were and where they fit within the superhero team. The season also introduced the boyfriend of Aqualad.
2019 has been a year of finality as numerous shows came to an end. Netflix released the first half of the final season for Bojack Horseman and it was a devastating, hilarious, and moving rollercoaster ride. Todd Chavez, an asexual character, came to terms with his family life and engaged in hijinks galore.
Actor-writer Ryan O’Connell brought his semi-autobiographical series Special to Netflix. The new show was met with resounding success, praised for its depiction of a man living with cerebral palsy. It sparked an important discussion around gay culture and the fixation on physicality.
Chella Man’s portrayal of Jericho in Titans Season 2 brought the show in an exciting new direction. Though Titans aired as a darker take on the Teen Titans franchise, it has managed to find a balance between the gritty and the lighthearted, returning for season 2 with continuous standout episodes.
Speaking to Out, Man said,“As a trans, deaf, Jewish person of colour, I have always reminded myself of the power in my differences. It is a dream come true, now, as I will be able to showcase this power on Titans.”
Batwoman made her entrance into the Arrowverse as the first lesbian led superhero show on television. From the pilot episode, the show struggled to escape from beneath the shadows of its predecessors, such as Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow. However, Batwoman is taking a note from The Legends of Tomorrow and is quickly finding its footing as recent episodes tackled the patriarchal world of Gotham and depicted interpretations of the US military policy – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
After a successful first season, Pose returned with a sensational second season featuring brand new tension and stunning stunts. Though the ballroom scenes were still a captivating celebration of New York City’s black and Latino LGBT+ culture, certain character storylines this season felt flat. As Pose tried to grapple with drama and comedy, the two felt disconnected at times as the show served shock value rather than in-period observation.
However, in true ballroom turn of events, the finale managed to pull everything together and end with ‘tens, tens, tens across the board.’
Superhero-focused TV shows and movies dominated mainstream media for the past few years so this was the perfect time for The Boys to go to war against a team of heroes. This dark and gory show exploded onto the small screen with a clear intent, and that was to punch through genre tropes.
Queen Maeve’s sexuality was hinted at when she met up with her ex-girlfriend, however the character has not received much further development in season one. With a second season on the horizon, hopefully the male-centric nature of the show will give way to a more balanced look at each character.
The passionate sex scene between Salim and the Djinn in season 1 was hailed as one of the most beautiful depictions of homosexual love on mainstream television. After a rocky road of losing directors and cast, American Gods season 2 finally came back to the small screen and chose to expand upon Salim and the Djinn’s relationship. Though season 2 struggled to capture the atmospheric magic of the first, it is still an enjoyable watch.
Continuing the trend of stellar season finales, Shadowhunters season 3 slayed the game with a stunning final episode focusing on the relationship between Magnus and Alec. Their wedding was a perfect send off for the show as the two overcame every demonic obstacle in their path and made it down the aisle.
Since its pilot episode, Watchmen has been painting a compelling and realistic portrayal of black trauma in America and queer identities. Each episode has been a gripping experience which takes the source comic material and expanded upon it. The show is a powerful exploration of modern politics and interpersonal relationships between diverse backgrounds.
The L Word: Generation Q
Ten years after the season finale, The L Word is finally back on our screens and clearly they have upped their game. This is an amazing chance to rejoin a show which acted as a platform to highlight story lines with LBT+ women as the focus.
2019 was an exceptional year for LGBT+ representation in TV shows. It is exciting to think about how 2020 will build upon these storylines and continue to reflect the community. If we missed any of your favourite TV shows, let us know down in the comments.
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