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GLAAD media study: 'We've made incredible gains over the past decade'

The lesbian characters Barbara Gordon (left) and Renee Montoya from Fox's Gotham.
The lesbian characters Barbara Gordon (left) and Renee Montoya from Fox's Gotham.
FOX Broadcasting Company

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This fall’s new batch of TV shows saw an increase in recurring or regular characters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. But as the quantity of these characters increased, has the quality of how they are depicted improved as well?

GLAAD -- formerly known as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — has looked at how the LGBT community is represented and illustrated in this year’s Fall TV line-up in a new study titled "Where We Are On TV." 

GLAAD has been conducting these studies for 19 years. For the 2014-2015 season, the report states that 3.9 percent of primetime broadcast scripted series regulars will be lesbian, gay or bisexual characters — up from 3.3 percent last year.

Matt Kane, the Director of Entertainment Media at GLAAD, oversaw the study and gives his take on what these numbers mean for the LGBT community. 

Interview Highlights:

On which networks or shows are doing positive things with LGBT characters:

We have a couple of shows that we were very excited about this season, including two on Fox: the new show "Empire," which will be premiering later on this winter and features a young gay black man who's also an aspiring musician and the son of the lead character; and we were also very excited to see Renee Montoya [a lesbian detective character] from DC Comics making an appearance on the show "Gotham."

On the importance of the GLAAD Media study results:

I think these numbers are really important to look at, especially compared to where they were five [or] 10 years ago. This gradual increase we've seen is really indicative of the general public's greater acceptance and increased understanding of the LGBT community. And we're getting to a point now where the numbers are actually becoming less important than the depictions themselves; we want to see more diverse and more multifaceted depictions that more closely resemble real LGBT people.

Which TV characters are pushing past stereotypes and cliches:

The character of Maura on "Transparent" is a really important new character, because she's telling a very specific story about a specific trans experience that hasn't really been depicted in very great detail on a television show before. But also characters on shows like "Orphan Black" and "Penny Dreadful," which are both very genre-driven shows. They may not be the places where you would expect to see LGBT characters, but I think that element — of taking characters that we've often seen in dramas and comedies and putting them inside these very extreme situations — really offers up new opportunities for telling stories about LGBT characters that people might not have expected otherwise.

Which networks need to improve:

Ah, well. [laughs] The ones that we've looked at that I'd say really could do better include The History Channel  ...  [which] has more hours of original programming than most other networks on cable — or even broadcast for that matter — and it does not regularly have any kinds of appearances by LGBT people. Although it does have a lot of opportunities where they could be telling stories about LGBT people living in the parts of America that very often aren't given much attention by the media.

On whether the study results are positive or frustrating:

There's always going to be an area here or there that — when you look at the data this closely —  you'll find some frustration. But if you take the wider picture from where we were a decade ago, and specifically where I thought we might be a decade ago, it's really incredible. The gains that we've made just in terms of getting to see ourselves reflected more fairly and accurately on television are really incredible and really beneficial to the LGBT community on the whole.

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