Thursday, April 8, 2010

Television Catching Up

Television is often meant to echo real life experiences, and a CNN article reports that TV shows might finally be catching up on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representation. The article, "Is Hollywood Gay Enough," suggests that the number of LGBT characters on primetime television has doubled since 2005. In addition to writing characters to represent the lifestyle, more people in Hollywood are 'coming out of the closet' about their personal lives. The article points out that typically straight actors play LGBT characters, with LGBT actors rarely playing a straight character (Neil Patrick Harris on "How I Met Your Mother" being an exception). A producer suggests that LGBT actors might be nervous of the stigma 'coming out' could cause, especially because it places their sexuality in the spotlight.

From an editorial standpoint, I felt the article could have used a bit more balance. The main sources are a gay actor playing a gay character, two straight actors playing gay characters and a producer who is gay. It seems ironic that the article says "the "L" and the "T," of LGBT, are still waiting for their TV time," but then no sources or characters are discussed that do represent these lifestyles. I also thought it seemed slightly contradictory for the article to open by saying that the number of characters on television is slowly beginning to serve as a valid representation of real life- how is that possible when the article itself says lesbians and transgendered are rarely represented. However, the article also says that the main decision in representation is whether an audience will be comfortable.

From a 20 something standpoint, I thought this article was interesting, especially in light of a project I completed on the representation of women on TV shows (and whether their careers matched real life). I had never considered that more straight actors are cast as gay men than vice versa, and that bothered me slightly. I appreciated the quote from Sean Smith on the matter: "Whether they're gay, straight, from the South, British or from Mars, it doesn't matter. The best person who captures that character gets the job." While I agree that casting should be entirely based on abilities not sexual orientation, I struggled to believe Smith simply because if more people truly believe that then why is Neil Patrick Harris the only example anyone has of a gay man playing a straight character?

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