How Gay Is Your TV?

Does it feel like every television show has to have their token gay character? It’s one of my mother’s common gripes about primetime TV; she feels gay plotlines and characters are overused because of their current topicality. Me, I like to see the cute boys kiss.

It wasn’t all that long ago that seeing a gay character on television was groundbreaking; to see one with a functioning love life even more so. The first openly gay characters on television were almost always minor, one-shot characters that were almost angelically celibate, and only started showing up in the late seventies and early eighties. When two men were shown in bed together on an episode of thirtysomething in 1989 and the show lost over a million dollars. Then came the nineties, and suddenly we were here, we were queer, we were everywhere! But mainly on Will & Grace.

But the subject came up again and it got me thinking – just what is the current state of QueerTV these days? We have our niche markets – RuPaul’s Drag Race (which just debuted a new season this past week), The Real L Word (or, as I like to call it, Real Lesbian Housewives), the defunct Queer As Folk and The L Word. There’s our mainstream gays on Glee, and unnaturally pale gays on True Blood. But for your average redblooded American TV fan, how gay is their tube?

I’m a democratic, statistical kind of person. All I ask for is representation by population. The current statistics say that ten percent of the American population is gay, and that percentage is split about 60-40 between gay woman and gay men. The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (my preferred bathroom reading – yes, I am that shallow) provided the ten most-watched (scripted) television shows on a weekly basis, and my own experience and Wikipedia provided the matching queerlysis. So, Geek’s Dream Girl, in association with D Has Too Much Time On Her Hands Productions, presents:

How Gay Is Your TV?

  • The Big Bang Theory: No gay characters. Except maybe Amy Farrah Fowler.
  • CSI: Only gay character is the occasional corpse. Unless you read that secret notebook of Warrick/Greg slashfic I had in high school.
  • Criminal Minds: Nope. No gays here.
  • NCIS: Again, not unless you read my secret notebook of . . . okay, you get the picture.
  • Rob: . . . haven’t even heard of this one. Apparently it’s both terrible and terribly straight.
  • The Good Wife: Kalinda Sharma is unapologetically and authentically bisexual! Yay for The Good Wife! Also, they get half a princess point for having Alan Cumming, even if he plays a straight man. Still, the gorgeous Archie Punjabi’s bi lawyer only brings the percentage of queer characters to six percent, just short of the ten-percent goal.
  • Once Upon a Time: As far as I know, no gays to be found in Storybrooke, but the show is young enough that this could change.
  • CSI: Miami: Finally, a procedural which – oops, no, nevermind.
  • The Mentalist: Move along, nothing to see here.
  • Person of Interest: Another fairly new show, once again the only gay characters that appear are as victims or, dare I say it, persons of interest.

Unfortunately, the next three shows don’t regularly make the top-ten lists, but are so popular I feel they deserve a mention:

  • The Office: I am biased, but I think this is hands-down my favourite representation of a gay character in a currently running television show. Oscar is openly gay, it’s discussed in the show, he has relationships, discusses sex, hangs out in bear bars, and yet, it never becomes an issue or a focus or a special episode. It isn’t even his defining quirk. Percentage-wise, with only Oscar representin’, The Office still comes in at a piddly five percent.
  • Modern Family: Rings in with twenty percent of the main cast queer as a three dollar bill, but both men.
  • Glee: Stacks the odds with twenty-six percent of the main cast being gay, and that percentage split squarely between male and female characters.

In conclusion: More gay characters, especially under-represented gay women, in three-dimensional, well-rounded roles. And some dudes kissing.

Disagree with me? Find the list biased? Think some shows deserve more of a shout-out? Leave a comment!

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