Tag Archives: characters

Deadly season for lesbian, bisexual TV characters

A record number of gay characters are featured on broadcast series, but small-screen shows overall can be deadly for the female ones, according to a study released this fall.

More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year, the media advocacy group GLAAD found in its report on small-screen diversity.

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium “failed queer women this year” by continuing the “harmful ‘bury your gays’ trope,” the report said.

The violent deaths included characters Poussey Washington (played by Samira Wiley on “Orange is the New Black”) and Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack on “Wentworth”).

It’s part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character’s story line, GLAAD said, sending what it called the “dangerous” message that gay people are disposable.

For its annual report titled “Where We Are on TV,” researchers tallied the LGBTQ characters seen or set to be portrayed in the period from June 2016 to May 2017. Counts were based on series airing or announced and for which casting has been confirmed.

The study, which in 2005 began examining other aspects of diversity on TV, found record percentages of people of color and people with disabilities depicted on broadcast shows.

Among the detailed findings:

  • Broadcast TV includes the highest percentage of regularly appearing gay characters — 4.8 percent — since Gay rights organization GLAAD began its count 21 years ago.

Among nearly 900 series regular characters on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC, 43 characters are LGBTQ, up from 35 last season.

  • Streamed shows included 65 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, up six from last season. Lesbians, including characters on “One Mississippi” and “Orange is the New Black,” account for the majority of characters, 43 percent, a far higher share than on broadcast or cable.
  • Cable series held steady with 142 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, with a 5 percent increase in the number of gay men but a 2 percent drop in the number of lesbian characters depicted.
  • The number of transgender characters in regular or recurring appearances on all platforms has more than doubled from last season, from seven to 16.
  • Characters with a disability represented 1.7 percent of all regularly seen broadcast characters, up from 0.9 percent last season. Each platform has at least one LGBTQ character that’s HIV-positive, with only one such character a regular (Oliver on “How to Get Away with Murder”).
  • African-Americans will be 20 percent (180) of regularly seen characters on prime-time broadcast shows this season, the highest share yet found by GLAAD. But black women are underrepresented at 38 percent of the total, or 69 characters.
  • The percentage of regularly appearing Asian-Pacific Islanders on broadcast TV hit 6 percent, the highest tally found by GLAAD and slightly more than the group’s U.S. population percentage. Contributing to the increase are the Asian-American family shows “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Dr. Ken.”
  • Latino characters rose a point to 8 percent, equaling the highest representation found two seasons ago by GLAAD. That differs sharply from the 17 percent Latino representation in the U.S. population as measured by the Census Bureau, the report said.

ABC family gets top marks for LGBT inclusiveness

The television network that gets the most praise from an advocacy group that monitors content featuring gays, lesbians and transgender people has “family” in its name and targets an audience of teenage girls and young women.

GLAAD said in a report issued last week that 74 percent of the programming hours on ABC Family included at least one LGBT character – the highest percentage any network has recorded since the group began issuing content reports in 2007. GLAAD studied the networks for a one-year period that ended May 31.

“We feel it is our responsibility to our viewers to reflect the world that they live in and it’s a diverse world,” said Karey Burke, executive vice president of programming at the Disney-owned network.

ABC Family’s numbers were boosted by the drama “Pretty Little Liars,” where one of the lead characters Emily Fields is a lesbian. “The Fosters” follows the story of a lesbian couple. “Chasing Life” featured a bisexual woman and a gay man, although the latter character died of cancer. “Young & Hungry” and “Mystery Girls” both featured gay men, and there were a number of gays and lesbians in the supporting cast of “Switched at Birth.”

Network viewers are also anticipating the January debut of “Shadow Hunters,” a show based on the book series “The Mortal Instrument” that prominently features a gay couple.

Three-quarters of ABC Family’s typical audience is female, with a median age of 29, according to the Nielsen company.

The network is likely to be more inclusive partly because it seeks a younger audience, an age group that is more accepting of gays and lesbians, said Matt Kane, GLAAD programming director.

Seamlessly including these characters in the stories sends a strong message of acceptance that is likely to help young people dealing with their own identity issues, he said.

“I hope that it is something that other networks are taking notice of,” Kane said.

GLAAD has consulted with ABC Family on its programming, although Kane wouldn’t divulge the group’s specific role. The network and its actors have helped GLAAD with some of its activities, including an annual “Spirit Day” that encourages people to wear purple for a day.

Burke said the status as GLAAD’s top-rated network “makes us deeply proud.

“We were hugging each other in the halls here,” she said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

GLAAD’s grade did not reflect “Becoming Us,” a nonfiction series about two transgender people in an Illinois community that aired on ABC Family this summer.

That series, which averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, was a ratings disappointment for ABC Family and it has not been decided whether it will come back for another season. Executives aren’t sure why it didn’t do well, whether the subject matter made viewers feel uncomfortable or whether the attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait” drowned “Becoming Us” out.

“We hope it’s not a reflection of the subject matter,” Burke said.

Despite the inclusive hours, GLAAD said one story line on “Pretty Little Liars” was a disappointment. The series had a mentally ill transgender woman who, in the season finale, attempted to murder both her family and the main cast of the show. GLAAD said it was “the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.”

Part of acceptance for LGBT characters in entertainment is having them portray villains as well as heroes, Burke said.

“We don’t feel the show has anything to apologize for,” she said.

Before rape joke, ‘Family Guy’ had critics

This weekend’s crossover episode of Fox’s “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” has received criticism for a scene where a character uses rape as a punchline for a joke.

The line appears in a scene in which Bart Simpson is instructing Stewie Griffin in the art of the prank phone call. Bart dials the owner of Moe’s Tavern and asks whether there is anyone there with the last name Keybum, first name Lee. When Moe calls out to his patrons, asking for a “leaky bum,” everyone gets a laugh.

Stewie thinks that’s cool, and asks to make his own prank call.

“Hello, Moe?” he says. “Your sister’s being raped.”

Tim Winter, president of the advocacy group Parents Television Council, said he’s a longtime fan of Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” and sought out the trailer when it was released.

“I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it,” Winter said. “It really troubled me.”

He said he found it particularly offensive in the context of stories about sexual assaults on college campuses and, most recently, talk about abusive treatment of women by some players in the National Football League. He said when rape is accepted as a punch line for a joke in entertainment, “it becomes less outrageous in real life.”

Winter said he wrote to Groening, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and Fox in August, asking that the joke be removed when the episode is shown on television. He said he received no reply.

MacFarlane brought up the line during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, predicting he will get attacked for it in the media. “But in context,” he said, “it’s pretty funny.”

Winter said he didn’t think the subject was worth joking about, and said he was particularly concerned about its exposure to younger viewers who may be fans of “The Simpsons,” but are not familiar with the “Family Guy” style of comedy.

It’s not the first time the animated “Family Guy” has gotten its creators in hot water. Here are some other examples:

• Fox declined to air an episode, “Partial Terms of Endearment,” during the 2009-10 season when family matriarch Lois Griffin contemplates an abortion. She was acting as a surrogate for a couple killed in an auto accident before the baby was born. Fox executives said it was fragile subject matter at a sensitive time. The episode was later released on DVD.

• The episode, “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein” was criticized as anti-Semitic by The Forward, a newspaper that spotlights Jewish issues. In it, the character Peter sings a song titled “I Need a Jew.” Fox initially declined to air it, and it was shown first on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network in 2003. Fox then aired it the next year.

• Advocates for people living with AIDS criticized a 2005 episode in which Peter was part of a barbershop quartet that dressed in red vests and danced around a man’s hospital bed singing a song titled, “You Have AIDS.”

• Sarah Palin called the show’s writers “heartless jerks” for a 2010 episode in which the character Chris dated a girl with Down syndrome. When Chris asked what her parents did, she replied: “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” Palin, who had resigned as Alaska governor months earlier, has a son with Down syndrome.

Fox’s entertainment division, through a spokeswoman, said it would not comment on the criticism or whether there are any second thoughts about the joke in the episode scheduled to air later this week.

Waters’ ‘Paying Guests’ filled with romance, sex

Fans of Sarah Waters will feel cloaked in comfy familiarity when they sink into her new novel, “The Paying Guests.”

The setting is London, 1922. The post-war economy forces upper-class Frances, a single woman in her late 20s, and her mother to begrudgingly take in lodgers. The book opens with the arrival of newlyweds Len and Lilian Barber, who are solidly middle-class.

“What on earth had she done? She felt as though she was opening up the house to thieves and invaders,” she writes. 

While the plot initially explores the differences in social classes, it quickly becomes much more. 

Frances finds herself immediately attracted to Lilian, while Lilian’s husband, Len, shamelessly flirts with Frances. Then Frances kisses Lilian. 

“The kiss was perfectly lifeless, for a second or two. It was cool and dry and chaste, the sort of kiss one might give to a child. … They held the kiss, chaste as it was, until, by their very holding of it, it became unchaste.”

In true Waters’ style, “The Paying Guests” is filled with romance and sex, suspense and deceit. Her prose is as strong as ever. She brings her characters and her settings to remarkable life and it’s easy to disappear into her version of London’s Champion Hill neighborhood — dirt and grime and all.

On the Web…

http://www.sarahwaters.com/ 

Review: ‘Tammy’ misses the funny bone

Meet Tammy. Boy, is she a mess. Angry, profane and aggressive, then suddenly shy and sweet. Sometimes she’s funny, sometimes totally not. She can’t figure out what she wants to do or be, or where to go. She has loads of people around her, yet can’t figure out what to do with them. This one’s in desperate need of outside help.

And you thought we were talking about Tammy, the character — played by lovable Melissa McCarthy in her first venture as producer, star and co-writer with husband Ben Falcone. Well, sure. But really we’re talking about “Tammy” the movie, about which all of the above descriptions are also true.

Especially the “mess” part. Oy.

Other recent comedies have been described as elongated “Saturday Night Live” skits, but it’s especially apt here, and not just because McCarthy and Falcone, who also directs, are veteran improv performers. Exaggerated characters, some wacky side plots, a couple of famous faces sprinkled in, and you’re off. Some of it’s good, some terrible, but you keep it all, `cause, hey, why not? It’s a comedy sketch.

Only this is a much anticipated, heavily promoted feature-length film, and as such, it can only be deemed an unfortunate, though ambitious and intermittently enjoyable, misfire for McCarthy, so adorably entertaining in better movies like “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat.”

Part of the problem is miscasting. “Tammy” is full of name actors: Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Dan Akyroyd. Most are misused. (Bates is a happy exception.)

Most glaring of all: Sarandon plays Tammy’s doddering grandmother, Pearl, with whom Tammy goes on a female-bonding road trip (yes, obvious echoes of “Thelma and Louise”). Give her credit for trying, but really, Sarandon as a doddering grandma? McCarthy is 43. Sarandon is 67, but we all know she looks great for 50, maybe 45. They give her a dumpy pants ensemble, an unflattering gray wig and fake swollen ankles, but we don’t buy it for a minute. Just look at Sarandon’s glowing skin here – she should be doing a Dove commercial.

It still might have worked if these two actresses had the comic chemistry (or the script) that made us laugh at the rowdy McCarthy teaming with the uptight Bullock in “The Heat.” No heat here, alas.

We first meet Tammy on, arguably, the worst day of her life. First, her car hits a deer. That makes her late for her job at Topper Jack’s burger joint, where she’s promptly fired by her sadistic boss Keith (Falcone), and responds by licking all the hamburger buns.

At home, she finds husband Greg (Nat Faxon) romancing neighbor Missi (Toni Collette, criminally underused). Furious, she runs home to her mother, Deb (Allison Janney, a great-looking 54-year-old, and thus also implausibly cast – but whatever.)

Tammy wants to hit the road. That’s where Pearl comes in. She’s eager to stave off the nursing home, and has a huge wad of cash.

Misadventures ensue. Tammy totals a jet ski. Pearl gets drunk – she’s a serious alcoholic, and a diabetic – and ends up having sex in a car with a randy old guy, while his son (Mark Duplass, in a sweet performance) and Tammy watch in disgust. Tammy and Pearl get in trouble with the law. Tammy needs bail money for Pearl, so she robs a Topper Jack’s with a paper bag on her head.

Somehow the two end up – and you knew this was coming – at a huge lesbian July 4th party! The hosts are Pearl’s friend Lenore, played by the terrific Bates, and girlfriend Susanne (Sandra Oh, barely used at all.) This is where things go seriously wrong between Pearl and Tammy.

It all comes hurtling oddly, with weird rhythm and pacing, to an equally odd ending. At least Tammy – the character, not the movie – seems to know a little more about where she’s going.

Us? We’re still scratching our heads.

“Tammy,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language, including sexual references.” Running time: 96 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Number of LGBT characters declines on TV

Fewer LGBT characters are part of the new broadcast TV season following a record-setting year, while cable depictions continued to increase, according to a new study from a media advocacy group.

GLAAD’s 18th annual “Where We Are on TV” report released on Oct. 11 says 3.3 percent of 796 regularly appearing characters on prime-time broadcast dramas and comedies are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Last season’s study by GLAAD put LGBT depictions at 4.4 percent.

Numbers are one thing, content is another, said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz.

“Last season was a stellar one when it comes to the sheer number of gay, lesbian and bisexual representations on television, though diversity within those storylines showed room for improvement,” Cruz said in a release.

Despite the decline this season, characters such as an interracial lesbian couple raising their children on ABC Family’s “The Fosters” have “not only moved the conversation about LGBT people forward” but are popular with viewers, he said.

There are 46 LGBT regular and recurring characters on broadcast, with half of them women and 28 percent ethnic minorities, GLAAD said. One transgender character, Unique, is on Fox’s “Glee.”

Two networks, ABC and Fox, showed increases this year and had the highest proportions of LGBT characters with 5.4 percent each, the study found. The CW’s 3 percent put it in third place, followed by CBS with 1.9 percent and NBC with 1 percent.

On cable, scripted programs include 42 regularly seen LGBT characters, up from last season’s 35.

HBO has the most LGBT characters with 11, followed by Showtime with eight.

Looking more broadly at broadcast TV diversity, the GLAAD study found a small decline in the percentage of female characters to 43 percent from 45 percent. Minority characters remained at 23 percent, with 1 percent of regular characters having a disability.

In a post-season assessment for the 2012-13 lineup, Fox was found to be the most inclusive broadcaster with LBGT images in 42 percent of its prime-time programming hours, while ABC Family was the front-runner on cable with LBGT images in 50 percent of its original programming.

The cable channel History lacked any LGBT images last season, GLAAD said.

Study shows continued anti-LGBT bias in Hollywood

A new study suggests the proliferation of gay characters in films and television shows has not prevented gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender actors from experiencing discrimination in Hollywood.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists commissioned the survey, released on Sept. 27. It found that more than half of the actors who identify as LGBT think directors and producers are biased against them.

More than one-third of the actors who don’t fall into those categories agreed with that perception.

Only 16 percent of the LGBT respondents, however, said they had experienced discrimination. Gay men reported the most, with about one-fifth saying they had been discriminated against.

The online survey of nearly 5,700 SAG/AFTRA members also found that more than half of the LGBT respondents had heard producers and directors make anti-gay comments while working on-set.

The performers’ union, which is holding its annual convention in Los Angeles, said it pursued the first-of-its-kind research at the request of a committee that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members and as a methodical way to explore an issue usually discussed through anecdotes.

The study was conducted by the Williams Institute, a think tank based at UCLA that specializes in sexual orientation, gender identity and public policy.

“The survey results show both progress and indications that more work will be necessary to make the workplace an equal and fully welcoming place for LGBT performers,” M. V. Lee Badgett, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst economics professor affiliated with the UCLA institute. “The good news is that almost no one thought that opportunities for LGBT actors were getting worse.”

The survey also revealed that despite concerns about being typecast, two-thirds of the gay actors who had played gay characters felt that it had not harmed their careers or limited the roles they were offered. Nine percent of the gay men and lesbians said they had been turned down for roles during the past five years because of their sexual orientations.

Apple’s emoji family welcomes gay couples

When Apple releases its newest operating system for the iPhone later this year, it will include new emoji – the elaborate kin to emoticons – including same-sex couples.

Gizmodo reports that the new icons for a texter’s pictoral alphabet arrive with i0S6, which is due this fall.

The two same-sex couples are believed to be the first gay emoji. They probably will be more useful than the twin tap dancers and the top hat, but not as commonly used as the happy face.

GLAAD tunes into new fall season

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation previewed this week what’s coming from the five major broadcast networks for the fall.

GLAAD offers this glance:

• ABC will remain one of the most LGBT-inclusive networks on television when it brings back shows such “Modern Family,” “Happy Endings,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” “Revenge” and “Don’t Trust the B- in Apt 23” next season. 

Also, comedy legend Lily Tomlin and out actor Jai Rodriguez will play supporting roles on “Malibu Country,” Reba Macintyre’s new sitcom. Plus, GLAAD says, “it also looks as though the mother in ‘How to Live With Your Parents’ – played by “Weeds” star Elizabeth Perkins – is open to exploring her sexuality.

• CBS is not adding a lot of shows in the fall. Of the four shows premiering next season, one will help the network “make good on their long-ago stated intention of including more gay characters in their programming,” GLAAD says.

The new sitcom “Partners” from “Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will follow two best friends since childhood – one is gay, one straight – whose new romantic relationships begin to affect their platonic one.

Mutchnick and Kohan based the show’s concept on their own long-standing friendship, and cast Micheal Urie and Brandon Routh as the Mutchnick stand-in. “This is a significant step up for a network that has for several years only been able to cite Kalinda on ‘The Good Wife’ as a regular LGBT character,” says GLAAD.

• CW’s “The Carrie Diaries” will premiere in midseason, and serves as a loose prequel to the HBO series “Sex and the City.” One of show’s listed characters also included in the Candace Bushnell book it is based on is Walt Reynolds, who is one of Carrie’s best friends that later comes out of the closet and dates the school quarterback. He is portrayed in the pilot by Brendan Dooling.

• On Fox, creator Kevin Williamson’s new serial-killer project, “The Following” will premiere in the fall. “Glee” remains the network’s most LGBT inclusive program, but viewers must wait and see which students will return in the show’s fourth season when it moves to a prime new Thursday time-slot following “The X-Factor” and “American Idol.”

• In terms of new LGBT characters, GLAAD says the most promising programming slate is on NBC, which will feature a new comedy from “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy about a gay couple and the surrogate who agrees to carry their child. Openly gay actor Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha play the expectant fathers in “The New Normal,” who are joined by cast-members Georgia King, Ellen Barkin, and “Real Housewives” star Nene Leakes.

Also premiering will be “Chicago Fire,” about the lives of emergency personnel in a Chicago firehouse, which includes a lesbian paramedic played by Lauren German. 

– Lisa Neff

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Florida right-wing group warns of gay, drag characters in ‘Star Wars’ game

The Florida Family Association and other right-wing groups are rattling sabers over a “Star Wars” game that allows players to create gay characters.

The multi-player online game is “Star Wars: The Old Republic” from BioWare. The game site offers an overview: “Choose to be a Jedi, a Sith, or from a variety of other classic ‘Star Wars’ roles, and make decisions which define your personal story and determine your path down the light or dark side of the Force. Along the way you will befriend courageous companions who will fight at your side or possibly betray you based on your actions. Together, you will battle enemies in dynamic ‘Star Wars’ combat and team up with other players to overcome incredible challenges.”

The American Decency Association has complained that the game-makers pandered to “homosexual extremists.”

And the Family Research Council complained that BioWare crossed over to the dark side.

Now the Florida Family Association, which had warned that the game allowed for gay stormtroopers, is wondering if players will be able to create drag personalities.

The Florida group, encouraging consumers to protest, stated, “Will the makers of Star Wars video games create Darth VaPaula, a (mock) transgender version of Darth Vader – RuPaul, for kids to choose as their action player?

“LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) extremists pressure Star Wars video game maker to commit to add LGBT content and censor critics. An overwhelming percentage of the 1.7 million games sold are being used by children who do not need to be introduced to this propaganda. Please send your email to BioWare’s parent company Electronic Arts.”

The FFA was founded in 1987 by David Caton, who is associated with a number of Christian right groups, including James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson’s “700 Club.”

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