Queer Girl Friday: LGBTQIA+ Representation Takes The Back Burner on Network Television

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I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s Queer Girl Friday for all things LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week I take on TV’s biggest stories through the rainbow lens. This season is still moving incredibly slowly for LGBTQIA+ characters, with the few canon couples on air placed on the back burner. Connor and Oliver from “How To Get Away With Murder” are going strong, despite Connor’s tumultuous school life; Arizona and her Italian fling Carina are still hooking up in “Grey’s Anatomy,” and Alex and Maggie over on “Supergirl” are prepping for their dream wedding. “Star Trek: Discovery” finally delivered the first scene between Lt. Stamets and his husband, CMO Dr. Hugh Culber, but it was disappointingly predictable, with the worried doctor irritated about his husband’s injuries.

Luckily, there are still hints the couples will jump back into the fire. Connor’s dads turned up at the end of HTGAWM, and Arizona has hinted at her child Sophia’s possible return, to Carina’s obvious discomfort. The jury’s still out for Stamets and Culber as the sci-fi drama goes all in with the angst and hopeful redemption of Michael Burnham. The prospects of some meaningful representation are the highest with “Grey’s Anatomy” and HTGAWM, as it’s rare for audiences to see a lesbian couple address the struggles of divorce and motherhood. The same goes for Connor, who is one of the only gay TV characters to also have two gay fathers.

In all, this week’s been lacking on the rainbow front, to my dismay. Even queer stronghold “Will & Grace” took a brief turn to their story arc, with Grace’s ex Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) returning to explain their second failed marriage. What’s a girl gotta do for some groundbreaking queer discussion? After all, same-sex couples are a portion, not the majority, of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’ve yet to hear the word of any new trans, asexual, or intersex characters on network television this season. Yes, we’ve come a long way since “Will & Grace” first premiered back in 1998, but there’s so much work still to be done. It feels like the drive for queer stories has tapered off since marriage equality became a reality, leaving the rest of our community at a dangerous point in U.S. history.

But perhaps my millennial eyes aren’t taking in the bigger picture: after all, having four same-sex couples on network television, on different shows, would’ve been unbelievable just twenty years ago. As I said last week, becoming more than “the Gay Guys/the Lesbians” in a story is a victory. Loving someone of the same gender is becoming mundane, by television standards. However, we can’t become complicit and see our progress was undone, which could happen if we don’t continue to push LGBTQIA+ characters to the forefront, and call out shows when they succumb to stereotypes (looking at you, “The 100.” Clarke and Lexa forever.). New trans, ace, and intersex characters must find their way onto our screens, and we have to be ready to fight for them.

On a final note, due to the lack of LGBTQIA+ news so far, I’ve been contemplating covering past TV series alongside the weekly news. I’d love to hear your thoughts about adding a flashback portion of Queer Girl Friday, where we discuss previous groundbreaking LGBTQIA+ stories from the TV world. Let me know in the comments below.

What do you think of the queer state of affairs on network television? Should Queer Girl Friday look back on some of TV’s biggest LGBTQIA+ triumphs? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Tee

    This may come off as offensive, for which I apologize since that’s not my intention…but isn’t this the ultimate goal? Where we as a society can look at television and not let characters be defined by their sexuality alone? When characters of the LGBTQIA community are characters with universal human arcs without their status being the driving factor? Where simply being LGBTQIA is, utilizing a word you use, the mundane?

    • Selina Mixner

      Not offensive at all, I can see where you’re coming from here. After all, the fact that several same sex couples on TV are having the mundane storylines so many straight couples have is technically a great thing. But my concern falls to the utter lack of LGBTQIA+ that AREN’T in longterm same sex relationships. We can’t just stop moving forward once there are a few longterm queer couples on TV because that’s not the reality. I loved Sense8, for example, because the characters were queer, bi, trans, polyamorous, you name it, whose sole connection was their birthdate and subsequent cluster. Those characters were a closer estimation of humanity’s diversity and ultimately made the show better. I’d like to see more of the same on network TV, is all.