We applaud shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black for presenting diverse queer characters. Why can’t more shows revolve around queer characters? It can’t be that hard, right? Web series do it all the time!
Unfortunately, when it comes to LGBT issues, politics get tricky behind the scenes of your favorite shows. Being an openly queer woman creating openly queer content is harder than it looks.
What’s it like to be a gay woman working in TV?
If you’re an actress who looks like a lesbian, you’ll never get any roles.
Actress Lauren Logiudice told Curve that she was having trouble booking roles in Hollywood. She was a beautiful, talented, dynamic actress with years of experience. So what was the problem?
“Your hair is too short,” said her agent.
Her agent said that Lauren’s short, spiky hair made her look like a lesbian. And since only 1.32% of characters on TV are lesbians, she didn’t have a future as a leading lady anytime soon.
Lauren grew her hair out to her chin and immediately booked enough roles to make a living as an actress.
“The dividing line between work and no work was five inches of hair,” she said.
Staff writers don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
Lesbian characters die all the time. Seriously, it’s a problem. So why can’t queer writers in the staff room speak up and change things?
It’s not that easy. The showrunner makes all the major decisions, but even he/she has to take direction from the studio and the network, or risk cancellation. A writer can speak up against a particular writing choice, but ultimately she’s told to write the script that the showrunner wants, and the showrunner will always rewrite her script later.
So why can’t a writer just refuse to write a script? For example, if a queer woman of color didn’t think that a certain death at the end of Orange is the New Black season 4 was justified, couldn’t she refuse to write the script as an act of protest?
Only if she wants to get fired.
Writer-director Maria Maggenti says, “If you want to keep your job, you don’t refuse to write a script.”
TV is changing for the queerer.
In order to keep television fresh, networks need new ideas all the time. And they’re finally turning to diverse writers to pitch them.
Director Lynn Shelton says, “For you to have a show that is not going to be like 20 other shows you really have to diversify.” And networks are increasingly searching for creative web series to turn into hit shows like Broad City and Insecure, both of which started on YouTube.
Being a queer woman in the TV industry isn’t easy, but it’s necessary – we’ve come far, but we still have much further to go.