Network images of GLBT people, 2010-2011

GLAAD has released this year’s National Responsibility Index ratings of the television broadcast networks and major cable networks.  

The GLAAD National Responsibility Index examines the quantity and quality of images (called impressions) of LGBT people on television.  It is intended to help media representations be fair, accurate and inclusive.

In a country which does not recognize the equality of its GLBT citizens, it is important that their are media portrayals of us to assist in correcting the problem.

As diverse LGBT images in the media become more prevalent, the general public becomes exposed to the truth of the LGBT community: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are parents and teachers, law enforcement officers and soldiers, high school students and loving elderly couples. It is as important for LGBT Americans to see our lives reflected on screen as it is for others to be exposed to the rich tapestry of the LGBT community.

GLAAD examined all the primetime programming of the broadcast channels ABC, CBS, NBC, The CW and Fox and the cable networks ABC Family, A&E, AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, Syfy, TBS, TNT, and USA.

Networks were chosen based on a combination of Neilsen Media Research ranking, cultural and media recognition factor, and the diversity and breadth of original programming.

News, sports, and children’s networks are not counted.

From June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011 there were 5958 hours of original programming tracked (only first-run broadcasts of original programs are counted).  Each program was reviewed for on-screen inclusion of LGBT depictions, whether they were minor or major, the orientation/gender identity and race/ethnicity of those depicted.  Significant discussion of LGBT issues was also counted.

There were 1229.75 hours of LGBT-inclusive programming, for 20.6%.  There were 841.5 hours featuring gay men, 282.5 hours of lesbians, 357.5 hours of bisexuals and 13.5 hours of transpeople.  In other words, original television programming showed a transperson in 0.22% of its viewing time…and still managed to mostly display us as sex workers.

GLAAD noted that racial diversity of depictions was a problem almost across the board.

Channels were rated by the percentage of LGBT-inclusive hours of primetime programming.

For the broadcast networks, The CW led with 33%, followed by Fox (29%), ABC (23%), NBC (15%) and CBS (10%).  The order is exactly the same as it was in 2009-2010.  Highest increases were CBS (at +3%) and NBC (+2%) while Fox was  down 1%, The CW down 2%, and ABC down 3%.

The CW had 171 LGBT-inclusive hours out of 522 total hours.  These hours come mainly from 90210, America’s Next Top Model,  and Gossip Girl.  136 of the inclusive hours contained a gay man, 55  contained a bisexual, and 33 contained a lesbian.  No transgender impressions were shown on this channel.  50% of the impressions consisted of a white person, 29% African American. 15% Latino/a, and 6% Asian/Pacific Islander.

Fox had 214 LGBT-inclusive hours out of 727.5 total hours.  These hours came primarily from Glee, House, Bones, the short-lived Running Wilde, American Dad, and So You Think You Can Dance.

Unfortunately the Fox Sunday Animation block has not been one of their strong points, in the past having served up extremely transphobic jokes on the Family Guy and The Cleveland Show.  This past year The Family Guy avoided GLBT stories and characters, while The Cleveland Show outed one of its main characters, who was depicted marrying another man.  Waylan Smithers and Patty Bouvier were still on The Simpson‘s and Moe’s Tavern was marketed as a gay bar.  Bob’s Burgers had a trio of transgender sex workers, working the stereotype big-time.

Fox had 125 hours depicting a gay man, 98 depicting a bisexual, 22.5 hours depicting lesbians, and 1 hour depicting transgender people.  72% of the impressions presented were white, 11% Asian/Pacific Islander (Angela on Bones), 4% Latino/a, 1% African American, and 12% Other (cartoons?).

ABC had 253 LGBT inclusive hours out of 1108 total hours.  These hours came primarily from Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, Happy Endings, Desperate Housewives, the now-cancelled The Whole Truth, Private Practice, Dancing with the Stars, Skating with the Stars, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Primetime: What Would You Do?.

There were also a few lesbian vampires on The Gates, a transgender sex worker on Rookie Blue, an injured paragliding lesbian couple on Off the Map, and several drag queens on Detroit 1-8-7.

196 of ABC’s inclusive hours features gay men, 51 hours of lesbians, 46 hours of bisexuals, and 5 hours of transpeople.  85% of the impressions were white, 12% Latino/a, 2% African American, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander.

NBC had 167.25 inclusive hours out of 1108 total hours, which came primarily from Law & Order: SVU, the cancelled Outlaw, the cancelled Undercovers, Parenthood, Harry’s Law, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Perfect Couples, Community, Outsourced, 30 Rock, America’s Got Talent, The Celebrity Apprentice, and The Voice.

Unfortunately Dr. George Huang will be leaving L&O: SVU next year.

Harry’s Law featured a more prominent storyline about a transgender woman suing for wrongful termination. The show’s heart may have been in the right place in trying to depict her story with sensitivity when she was on screen, but the episode contained problematic language, humor and a confused sense of what constitutes transgender identity.

NBC showed 147.5 hours of gay men, 29.5 hours of lesbians, 19 hours of bisexuals and 1 hour of a transperson…and got it wrong.  On the other hand,only 38% of its impression were white, while 36% were Latino/a, 23% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 3% Other.

CBS had 114 hours of LGBT-inclusive programming out of 1110 hours total, coming mostly from The Good Wife, NCIS, The Mentalist (Note: gay characters in NCIS and The Mentalist tend to be dead), $#*! My Dad Says, Rules of Engagement, and one-offs of a transgender sex worker on How I Met Your Mother, a gay ex-boyfriend of Molly’s on Mike & Molly and Charlie’s bisexual ex-girlfriend on Two and a Half Men.  On the reality front, CBS had inclusive programming on Big Brother and The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business.

CBS’ comedies featured a number of LGBT characters this year, but unfortunately much of the content was outwardly or borderline offensive. They would do well to recognize how many ABC and NBC comedies incorporate LGBT-related humor and characters into their scripts without resorting to stereotypes or making someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity the punch line.

CBS moved from Failing to Adequate.

60 of its inclusive hours included gay men, 55.5 hours of bisexuals, 24 hours of lesbians and 0.5 transgender…where a transgender sex worker could be displayed and trashed.  60% of the LGBT impression were white, 30% Asian/Pacific Islander, 9% African American, and 1% Latino/a.

On the Cable Side:

ABC Family had 56.5 LGBT-inclusive hours out of 103 hours of new original programming.  That’s an amazing 55% for the former Christian Broadcasting Network.  The main inclusive shows were Pretty Little Liars, GREEK (which ended its run), The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the short-lived Huge, and Make It or Break It.

28 hours of its offerings featured gay men, 24.5 lesbians, and 14 bisexuals.  Unfortunately, none of its portrayals were transgender.  35% of its impressions were white, 28% Multi-racial, 25% African American, and 12% Latino/a.

Showtime had 35.5 hours of inclusive programming out of 96.5 total hours, for a rating of 37%.  The hours came mostly from The Real L Word, Shameless, the now terminated The United States of Tara, Nurse Jackie, Weeds, The Big C, Episodes, Diaries of a Call Girl, the talk show The Green Room, and the special Pride: The Gay & Lesbian Comedy Slam.

24.5 of its hours featured gay men, with 19 hours of lesbians, 17 hours of bisexuals and one hour of transpeople.  85% of its impressions were white, 10% Latino/a, 4% Asian/Pacific Islander and 1% African American.

TNT had 31 inclusive hours out of 94 total hours for a rating of 33%, with the bulk of the hours coming from Southland.  Other inclusive programming came from Hawthorne, the concluding season of The Closer, and the cancelled Men of a Certain Age.  Rizzoli and Isles have also pretended to be lesbian to ditch unwanted advances from men and did one show of going undercover in a lesbian bar.

20 of its hours involved gay men, with 12 hours of lesbians and 1 hour of a bisexual.  67% of its impressions were white, 29% Lation/a, 2% African American and 2% multi-racial.

HBO had 55.5 inclusive hours out of 180.5 total, for a rating of 31%, with the hours primarily coming from True Blood, Big Love, Entourage, Bored to Death (which got an award nomination for its depiction of a young transwoman), Hung, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and In Treatment.  Real Sports with Bryant Gumble featured a profile of out rugby player Gareth Thomas.  HBO also ran several LGBT-themed documentaries.

40.5 of its hours featured gay men, with 21 hours of bisexuals, 17 hours of lesbians, and 2 hours of transpeople.  77% of its impressions were white, while 9% were African American, 8% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 6% Latino/a.

AMC showed 13 inclusive hours out of a total of 44.5  for a 29% rating, due mostly to the now-cancelled Rubicon‘s “enigmatic gay character” Kale Ingram, along with Mad Men.  9 of its hours contained gay men, with 4 hours of lesbians.  All of its impressions were white.

Syfy had 64 inclusive hours out of 291.5 total for a rating of 22%.  Most of its hours came from the now-terminated Caprica and Stargate Universe, Being Human, Eureka, Warehouse 13, Ghost Hunters Academy and Ghost Hunters, and Face Off.

40 of its hours featured gay men, with 22 hours of lesbians and 10 hours of bisexuals.  There were no depictions of transpeople.  The impressions were 66% white, 24% Asian/Pacific Islander and 10% Latino/a.

FX had 15.5 inclusive hours out of 82.5 total hours, for a rating of 19%.  The hours came from Archer, Sons of Anarchy, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  12.5 of its hours featured bisexuals, with 7 hours of gay men and 2 hours of transpeople.  97% of it’s impressions were white, with 3 % African American.

The now-cancelled series Terriers also featured a transgender storyline, which was somewhat stereotypical in its depiction of transwomen as sex workers, but illuminated the very real issue of trans women facing both violence and unsympathetic law enforcement.

The USA network had 21 hours of LGBT-inclusion out of a total of 114, for a rating of 18%, with the majority coming from White Collar, Fairly Legal (which cheated because it announced in a press release that a character was gay, but never mentions it on the show), In Plain Sight and Psych.

17 of the hours featured lesbians and 4 hours had gay men.  73% of impressions were African American and 27% white.

If that seems strange, one should note that White Collar‘s agent Diana Berrigan is one of the only black lesbian characters on television.

A&E had 14.5 inclusive hours out of a total of 290 hours of original programming, for a Failing rating of 5%.  Three-fourths of its hours can be attributed to Paranormal State‘s host Ryan Buell coming out as bisexual in the fall.  Additional hours came from episodes of Intervention and Breakout Kings, and the documentary The September Issue.

11.5 of the hours featured a bisexual, with 2 hours of gay men, and one hour each of a lesbian and a transperson.  92% of its impressions were white, while 4% were African American and 4% were Latino/a.

TBS had only 4 hours of inclusive programming out of 86 total hours, all coming from Are We There Yet? and Ellen’s Somewhat Special Special.  That’s a rating of less than 5%.  Can you say Failing?  Two of the hours had gay men, with 2 hours of lesbians and 1 hour of a bisexual.  83% of the station’s impressions were white and 17% were African American.

The one sticking point that remains an issue for ABC Family and every other network tracked this year by GLAAD for the NRI is a continuing lack of transgender representation. It’s telling that the best transgender character on TV – Adam on TeenNick’s Degrassi – is located on a show imported from Canada, rather than one produced here. We hope that this dearth of representation – not to mention storytelling potential – is something that all the networks will recognize and address.


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    • Robyn on August 6, 2011 at 00:01

    …in the GLAAD numbers.  That’s what comes from being a math geek.

    I added my own commentary from place to place, as should be obvious.

    • Robyn on August 6, 2011 at 00:47

    …to be frank, so I haven’t seen the vast majority of the shows mentioned.

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