Once upon a time, the discussion surrounding LGBT representation in the media was a numbers game and all we wanted to know was how many LGBT identified characters were depicted on the big and small screens.
But now, as more and more networks and studios have begun to feature LGBT stories in their works, the question is all about how those LGBT character were represented, rather than how many we could count.
With this said, Hollywood movies did well on both fronts in 2015. LGBT characters weren’t just main characters in a fair handful of movies but there was nothing particularly eye-rolling or offensive about any of them either (we’ve come a long way from 2010’s The Kids Are All Right and 2013’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour).
Carol (which features Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women who fall in love in the 1950s), Grandma (a lesbian poet accompanies her granddaughter as they try to drum up funds for the teen to have an abortion), Tangerine (two trans women go about finding their pimp) and Freeheld (a true and tragic story about a lesbian couple’s fight for benefits) have all gotten serious mainstream attention.
Admittedly this is a small handful of films out of the hundreds released this year (we’ll have to wait until next year for GLAAD’s full breakdown on LGBT characters in films from major studios) but as mentioned, it’s a long way away from a few years ago.
TV also made some strides particularly in terms of queer women of colour and establishing queerness with younger audiences. On Orange is the New Black, Poussey and Soso seemed to be on the verge of a romance, as did Suzanne and Maureen.
Meanwhile, How To Get Away With Murder’s lead character, Annalise Keating, rekindled her romance with her college girlfriend, and notable mentions go to Person Of Interest‘s Sameen Shaw who kissed Samantha “Root” Groves after episodes upon episodes of subtext and two of FOX’s new shows Grandfathered and Rosewood both featured black lesbians.
Then, when it came to cartoons, Adventure Time got an entire miniseries that focused on queer vampire Marceline (and her canon relationship with Princess Bubblegum) and Steven Universe revealed that Garnet is actually a big lesbian up of two little lesbians who are so in love they can’t bare to separate.
Also on SU there are Pearl’s (seemingly non-platonic feelings) for Rose, Amethyst and Peridot’s crushes on each other and the fact that Steven and his best friend Connie joined together (fused) to become ‘Stevonnie’, a character of colour who uses ‘they’ pronouns.
And not to forget The Legend of Korra, with the show ending with two bi women of colour (one of whom being the show’s main character) holding hands, signifying their canon relationship.
That said, overall, TV was a mixed bag (though this is perhaps due to TV having LGBT women leading to a higher probability of TV writers mucking it up).
Although Faking It‘s writing team have said that Amy is a lesbian, they still decided to use Amy’s portrayed bisexuality as a chance for her girlfriend to be biphobic. And less offensive but still unsettling is the fact that of the characters on shows being portrayed as bisexual (such as Annalise Keating, Sarah Pfefferman on Transparent) you’d be unlikely to hear them actually say the word ‘bisexual’ .
And while there’s a case to be made about TV showing that labels don’t matter,there are too many examples of this happening to suggest that that is always the case.
Moreover, Empire completely got it wrong as not only did lesbian billionaire Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) kiss Lucious Lyon (after showrunner and The L Word creator Ilene Chaiken hyped up the character’s arrival and her sexuality, no less) but it didn’t do (butch lesbian character) Freda Gatz justice either, seeing her get beaten in a rap battle just to further another character’s manpain.
Also showing how TV got it wrong was Pretty Little Liars which, in addition to being a total story-writing trainwreck during season five, it was incredibly transphobic as well as the show’s main characters managed to misgender a newly out trans women and use her dead-name too.
So, if we had to rate the year in LGBT media (with LGBT female characters at least), then 2015 would get a solid 7: it’s pushing the boundaries and getting better, but clearly work needs to be done.