To the average viewer, TV’s biggest problem is somewhat clear. To the hardcore number crunchers and critics, the same problem is glaringly obvious. From the paid-for TV depths of HBO to the (mostly) North American watched but globally appreciated programming of ABC Family, the television shows that we know and love fail from an almighty lack of representation. LGBT characters of colour or LGBT characters of all ethnicities who don’t end up sidelined in C or B plots are as hard to find as a needle in a haystack. Meanwhile, butch-presenting LGBT characters are about as hard to find as a needle in a haystack that’s been spray-painted a metallic shade of grey. Even the beacon of queer representation and hope, The L Word, did a pretty poor job as we looked at in our recent post-L Word feature but despite LGBT diversity being this much of a rarity even in 2014, we do have one place to turn to that regularly gets it right: the Internet.
The biggest expander increasing the gap between ‘representation of every part of the queer community’ and ‘white, femme-presenting queer ladies’ that we see on television is money, which is generally a factor anytime anyone wants to do anything, naturally. As to avoid alienating straight, white, male viewers who TV execs imagine would want to avoid the sorts of faces that they see every day, a more acceptable, conventionally attractive norm has developed meaning that the butch presenting, non-white minorities have been left out. Yes, those who control what we see on television (and in films, by extension) have managed to marginalise identities within the LGBT community, which is a community already ostracised from the cool kids’ party for many years previous.
That’s why the Internet is such a huge opportunity and playground as it gives creators the chance to display all of the things that are never shown on TV. There are fewer risks involved here, there are no fickle viewers to pander to, there are no advertisers to appease by leaving out people whom they don’t think will help to sell their products. On the Internet everything diverse goes, including the people who are making it.
The Peculiar Kind
Take The Peculiar Kind, for instance. A web series and documentary, The Peculiar Kind covers various topics including queer representation and how people of colour are presented in the media by going to the outlandish extreme of letting queer women of colour voice their opinions. It’s something that has made plenty of people ask why young and diverse queer people of colour haven’t been the forefront of a show (in this way) before and it’s a damn good question to ask. It can generally be answered by ‘because TV networks won’t give them a chance’ but the fact that The Architects (the duo behind the project which is made of by two incredibly talent queer ladies of colour) have just taken the initiative is a huge stride forward.
Dyke Central is another (albeit scripted) web series which Florencia Manóvil, the writer, director and producer of the series says that the team behind it created as they were “frustrated by the lack of representation of queer people of colour in the media”. The show is dramatic and funny as it takes on the lives of Alex and Gin, two butch roommates just living their lives and trying to navigate their relationships and friendships and day to day happenings. It’s the sort of show in which the plot itself isn’t very remarkable – you could imagine it being broadcast on your TV – but its characters identify as such that most networks would be unlikely to give this one a chance.
Furthermore, web series like Lesbros, which features a straight guy and a gay girl in humorous situations aren’t really much of a deviation off of the beaten track but it is still refreshing to watch. Not all queer women are going to have a friendship circle of exclusively queer friends (The L Word was far too hopeful in that respect) and similar to Dyke Central, Lesbros is a prospect that audiences would no doubt love if a network gave it a chance.
There are far more quality offerings that the ones above (if you have any favourites please share them in the comments below!) and the queer focused web series and documentaries may be funny, dramatic, serious, fictional and everything in between, but despite the differences of the shows, one thing’s for sure and that’s that those who watch the shows are all the more thankful for their existence, network support or not.