In American television today, shows like Marvel’s Runaways, Orange is the New Black, Modern Family and One Day at a Time are simply considered good TV. They’re full of complex characters with dynamic, well-developed storylines that are frequently shown to be the moral backbone of their show.
However, The Broadcast Standards and Practices Board would have once considered these shows highly indecent for the presence of openly gay characters. In fact, in 1997 Ellen DeGeneres threatened to quit the sitcom “Ellen” after ABC issued a parental advisory before airing an episode simply because DeGeneres’ character jokingly kissed her best female friend. The producers at ABC defended their position claiming, “the promise we have made to our audience is to provide them with as much information as possible so they can decide what is appropriate for their children to watch.”
This aversion to homosexuality and homosexual conduct has been ingrained in the media since its conception. Time Magazine expressed disdain for homosexuality in 1966 when it published an essay titled “The Homosexual in America” claiming homosexuality “deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as a minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste-and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.” Even the American Psychology Association included homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1973.
Naturally, during this time the percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual people seen on television was practically nonexistent, forcing heartthrobs like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter to conceal their sexual orientation to ensure the success of their careers.
However, today DeGeneres, Samira Wiley, Neil Patrick Harris and Keiynan Lonsdale are all successful, highly popular television figures who make no attempt to hide their sexual orientation. This shift toward acceptance of homosexuality is reflected in a recent Pew Research Center poll that showed 62% of Americans support same sex marriage as opposed to the 27% who supported it in 1996. Since then, same-sex marriage has become legal in all 50 states.
So, what is causing this dramatic shift in opinions, visibility and acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual people? One answer is the prevalence of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the media.
According to a recent study of college students, an increase in exposure to gay, lesbian and bisexual people in media enables groups with opposing positions to Continue reading “How TV has made us all gayer”