In 2009, the TV series Glee aired their first episode, beginning a show that would soon be deemed revolutionary in the LGBT community. The show not only incorporates a number of LGBT characters, but also includes common struggles that members of the LGBT community face and several homosexual relationships. The most well-known homosexual character on the show is Kurt. Throughout six seasons of the show, teens follow Kurt’s story that, first, only consists of surface conflicts (mostly conflicts within the glee club, disputes with friends etc.) but later evolves into deeper, more substantial struggles (such as dealing with his sexuality, significant others, family issues, etc.); Kurt, as a developed and fully dimensional character, became an idol to adolescents watching from home. Bobby Hankinson writes in The Gay Legacy of ‘Glee’, that the show is consistent in celebrating the individuality of it’s queer characters and the incredible impact it has on current TV shows cannot be denied.
To many teens today, however, incorporating LGBT characters in TV shows doesn’t seem “revolutionary” but rather…normal. After Glee’s popularity sky-rocketed, more adolescent TV shows began incorporating LGBT content–transgender characters, talk about homosexuality, bisexual encounters etc. The message of LGBT “normality” in these current TV shows is particularly incredible when compared to the gay content shown on television in the past. According to author Ron Becker in his book Gay TV and Straight America, it wasn’t until 1989 that gay-related content was even thought about as a serious addition to a TV show. Throughout the 90s, though, homosexual characters and content began to rise, especially towards the later years of the decade and early into the 21st century. However, even as it continued to rise, the content was not nearly as accurate, dimensional or in-depth as it is today. In fact, most adolescent TV shows in the 90s refused to show or imply any sexual relationship between homosexuals, let alone say anything about transgender (Becker 164-175).
However, as we moved into the twenty first century, adolescent TV shows began to change, especially after the hit series Glee. For example, three years after Glee aired, the first episode of Orange is the New Black (OITNB) was released, another revolutionary show for the LGBT community. Unlike Glee, however, the content of OITNB is more graphic and, some say, even more realistic. Not only is the MAIN character bisexual, but there are actually more LGBT characters incorporated in the plot than heterosexual and CIS gendered characters. They even have a transgender actress playing a transgender role.
Both Glee and OITNB are only snip-its of the wide range of homosexuality displayed in current adolescent TV. Nowadays, teenagers are so accustomed to TV series’ involving LGBT characters that they don’t even take notice to it. Its simply normal. And normalizing is exactly what the producers intend to do. The more exposed that our generation is to the LGBT community, the better we understand it. The more we understand the community, the more likely we are to respect it. The incorporation of LGBT content in adolescent TV shows is a huge progressive step that our society has integrated into our culture–a step that leads to equality, reformation, and respect.
PODCAST: MINUTES 12:00-25:00 (roughly)
New Lesbian: the podcast (minutes 12:00 through 25:00, roughly) talks about Shonda Rhimes, the writer and producer of extremely famous adolescent TV shows, of which include Scandal, Greys Anatomy, and How to get Away with Murder. The lesbian couple in the podcast share the respect they hold for Rhimes and the way she displays homosexual content in her shows. They appreciate the realism of the scenes and the “nonchalant” feeling of incorporating homosexuality into the TV shows. This is one of the many examples of how normalized the LGBT community has become in respect to adolescent television.