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The number of LGBTQ+ actors playing LGBTQ+ roles on television is pretty low

Earlier this year, GLAAD released their annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI). The index saw an 18 per cent drop in the number of films released by the major film studios in 2017 featuring LGBTQ+ characters, compared to the previous year. But, what about television?

The team over at Mens Pharmacy decided to find out more about the state of LGBTQ+ representation in popular television and, it turns out, things are pretty similar.

To find out how LGBTQ+ representation has changed over the past decade, the team looked at the top 20 most popular shows of each year (2008-2018) according to IMDB and recording those with LGBTQ+ characters in a lead role.

It turns out that 76% of LGBTQ+ characters are played by non-LGBTQ+ actors, which is actually quite depressing. Actors such as Scarlett Johansson have recently faced backlash for taking on LGBTQ+ roles in films, but it seems the issue stems far beyond the cinema too.

In 2008, only 20% of leads in the twenty popular shows were LGBTQ+. This figure rose to 65% in 2013 and 2015 yet this year the number fell to just 25%. Most alarming, 2018 saw zero LGBTQ+ actors playing LGBTQ+ roles in the most popular TV shows. LGBTQ+ characters to appear in the likes of Killing Eve and Black Lightning were instead played by non-LGBTQ+ actors.

While it is certainly good news that there are LGBTQ+ characters being portrayed in these shows, wouldn’t it be even better if they were actually played by actors who could relate with being LGBTQ+? Think of the sheer power in younger viewers seeing gay people proudly take on roles of also-gay characters.

Broken down by genre, crime dramas and comedies did best with LGBTQ+ representation over the last ten years. 42% of comedies featured an LGBTQ+ lead, compared to 40% of crime dramas. One of the last crime dramas to feature an LGBT character was Mindhunter in 2017, where Anna Torv played Wendy Carr – a closeted psychology professor. Insatiable has been a popular comedy this year featuring 3 LGBT leads.

The research also identified that 83% of teen dramas featured an LGBTQ+ lead, while sci-fi and fantasy shows had the lowest level of representation – only 24% in sci-fi and 31% in fantasy.

The National LGBT Survey recently found that 70% of the 108,000 LGBTQ+ people surveyed had concealed their sexual orientation for fear of a negative reaction, while 28% had experienced harassment or insults in the past year due to their sexuality.

Representation is super important, particularly when it comes to younger people and minorities who are desperately looking for someone to identify and relate to. Having realistic role models can help inspire people to be themselves and show that it’s okay to be who they are. It’s also helpful for educating those who respond negatively to minorities.

You can see more of the results over on the Mens Pharmacy site.

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