Column: LGBTQIA+ community distorted by media
The media’s bias toward “heteronormativity” is a concerning problem in our society that must be addressed.
Sep. 23, 2014
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
The media is, essentially, your life. Everything you encounter or discuss in a typical day (TV shows, movies, songs, clothes, ideals, etc.) can usually be traced back to originating from the media. You would think, then, that the media would draw an accurate description of life, taking into account all the different nuances and diverse lifestyles of the people living in the world today. Unfortunately, this idea does not apply to the LGBT community.
Despite relatively recent attempts for recognition of LGBT issues as a pressing concern, the media still poorly represents this section of society. According to GLAAD’s 2014 Studio Responsibility Index, which “maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in films released by seven major motion picture studios during the 2013 calendar year,” only 17 of 102 films contained LGBT characters. Only two characters were transgender while the overwhelming majority of these roles were white, gay men. GLAAD also found that for the 2012 to 2013 TV season, only 4.4 percent of scripted characters were LGBT on five major networks.
There is obviously a major bias towards “heteronormativity,” the overwhelming prevalence of heterosexual and cisgender (those who identify with their gender assigned at birth) people, in the media.
The media plays an important part in everyone’s life, and it could have a large impact in the acceptance of the LGBT spectrum if it was displayed properly. Although the LGBT community has made a lot of headway in the past few years toward equal rights, securing the support of media representation is essential. The only way to enlighten more people of these issues is if popular networks include more LGBT characters in TV shows and movies.
Another problem the media contributes to in the poor representation of LGBT people is how the few characters that do identify on this spectrum in shows and movies are portrayed. Writers most often use LGBT characters as a prop, something that they are obligated to include to appeal to more people. Most LGBT characters are defined by their sexuality; they have no other reason to be included in the show other than what they identify as. Often these roles are very minor and have little to no plot development.
Perhaps more offensive than a small and carelessly developed character role is the use of LGBT characters as a running joke. I can name off countless movies and TV shows and other forms of media that currently deploy this method in their scripts. Not only is it just morally wrong and rude, these “jokes” diminish the LGBT fight for equality. It enforces the belief that these issues should not be taken seriously.
It seems like the majority of media networks abuse the ideals of the LGBT community. Through their seemingly light-hearted jokes and obligatory characters with small roles, they are weakening the fight for equality. They are not accurately and fairly portraying life as it is and should be. A small, harmless change within the media can spur a whole different way of thought throughout the world.