TV, Venue

Queer Representation in Modern TV: Normalised, or Needs More?

LGBTQIA+ representation on TV is growing, but it still has a long way to go.

For decades, queer characters have either been completely lacking from our TV screens, adhering to harmful stereotypes, or have only been included to meet the diversity quota without having a character arc of their own. Some shows attempted to put them in through queer-coding, allowing the representation to be ‘there’ without making it so obvious it would receive backlash, rewrites, or be cut completely.

It’s still a recent phenomenon that these stories are being brought to the front. Queer people are actually being represented, unabashedly, and often beautifully. They have their own storylines and love interests as fully developed side characters, or even in their own shows. For the first time, in a sea of heteronormativity and cisgender narratives, queer stories are being told. Yet, some can’t comprehend this miniscule amount of representation. Queer people can’t enjoy these shows without being told they’re forcing their lifestyle on others. Queer stories are merely a pinch of salt in a whole meal, and traditionalists cannot accept this.

So, whilst they are finding ways to be ‘oppressed’ because a single show isn’t about them, let’s delve into some modern TV shows that represent and celebrate queerness:

It’s A Sin: This Channel 4 miniseries is a huge deal, especially as it gained so much mainstream attention – it was viewed more than 6.5 million times after a few weeks of being aired. This show shed light on the HIV and AIDs epidemics, coming out, homophobia, and fear mongering; although set in 1980s England, it’s as relevant as ever. It’s A Sin was based on real events, celebrating queer actors and queer stories from different cultures – much of it was inspired by creator Russell T Davies’ life.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: Rather than pretending ‘kids are too young to see this’, the series – which is streamed on Disney+ – features a gay couple. Although it is often overshadowed by the other relationships, this is a huge step for Disney in normalising queerness, having had an adamant lack of queer representation throughout their history

Love, Victor: A spin-off of Love, Simon, based on the book by Becki Albertalli, this show is streamed on Star on Disney+. The show deals with coming out; religious homophobia; and homophobia in sports. In the first season, there is an incredibly beautiful episode where Victor travels to New York. Here, he meets so many out-and-proud people of all queer identities, including a non-binary person and a gay man from a deeply religious family. This episode in particular shows how complex relationships with queerness can be, all of which are valid and OK to be expressed.

There are many modern shows where queerness is celebrated and explored – like Ru Paul’s Drag Race; Queer Eye; One Day at a Time and Young Royals – but it still isn’t enough. In comparison to straight, cisgender characters, queer representation is still close to none. Alongside this, unfortunately, a lot of queer representation available stars cisgender, gay men. There is very minimal bi representation of any gender identity, and very little trans representation – not to mention the rest of the wonderfully diverse LGBTQIA+ community.

The queer community has always been around. We always will be. It is not enough for streaming services to celebrate us during Pride Month in June. They need to show their allyship throughout the entire year and enact more long-term change. Show us that you truly support us by putting us in the spotlight. We’re not asking for every character to be queer, we’re just asking for an accurate portrayal of our community, and not every story has to be a coming out story – it’s important, but it isn’t the pinnacle of our lives.

Queerness doesn’t just have one face, and nor should the media we consume. Queer representation in modern TV is getting better, but it has a long way to go before it’s fully representative of our beautiful community. 

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Louise Collins

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July 2021
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