TELEVISION of today is considered by many to be in a golden age, where things have never been better creatively. We’re also seeing more LGBT-themed content than ever before.
Here are just some of the shows with an increased focus on diversity and representation.
Sarah Manning’s life quickly unravels when a woman who looks exactly like her steps in front of an oncoming commuter train. A down-and-out Sarah impulsively decides to steal this woman’s life. It’s not an easy life to steal, though.
She stumbles upon a shocking realisation: she’s a clone and there’s many other women out there like her – women of different backgrounds, temperaments, and sexualities.
There are three regular LGBT characters on Orphan Black, who all have prominent story lines.
There’s Felix, Sarah Manning’s foster brother. He’s an artist and sometimes sex worker, who is Sarah’s closest confidant. He’s extremely comfortable with his sexuality, it’s just another aspect of him. There’s also Cosima, one of the clones, who is an incredibly bright scientist who’s battling a health crisis. Cosima has a complex relationship with Delphine Cormier, who just might be working with the enemy.
All members of this distinct ensemble must band together to piece together a global conspiracy.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy Summers was the chosen one, a vampire slayer in a long line of women that came before her – tasked with battling all kinds of demons that the world assumed was just the thing of camp fire stories. It’s safe to say it wasn’t an easy job. To get things done, our teenage heroine surrounded herself with a close group of friends to help her fight the good fight – dubbed the Scooby Gang.
This show was known for using monsters as a metaphor for the teenage experience and was written by a distinguished writing staff, led by then up-and-coming creator known as Joss Whedon. (You might have heard of him)
The show wasn’t afraid to explore all kinds of themes, including stories of an LGBTI nature – even telling a complex coming out story in the show’s fourth season with a main character.
Our Scoobies were college bound and Willow Rosenberg found herself exploring her sexuality. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and was drawn to a fellow student named Tara McClay. The show initially used magic as a metaphor for intimacy, before the two women started dating for real. To this day, Willow and Tara are considered up there with the best lesbian relationships ever depicted on television.
Looking premiered on HBO in 2014 and told a uniquely LGBT-themed story about a group of gay men living their lives in San Francisco. We saw this world through the distinct eyes of Patrick, Augustin and Dom, who all were at a different place in their lives. This was a show that wasn’t just about sex, it also painted a detailed picture of the gay experience and all the things that come with it.
The refreshing thing about Looking was that it explored various issues without coming across as an after school special or teaching experience.
We had an arc delicately navigating through the issues that might arise in a relationship between two guys, when one of them was HIV+ and the other wasn’t. We had an arc about sexual health and PREP. We had an arc exploring open relationships and the dating apps. We also had characters representing a variety of ages, giving insight into what it’s like to be gay at unique stages in your life.
PLEASE LIKE ME
Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me opens with our lead character coming out of the closet while on a date with his long time girlfriend. Most coming out stories are angsty to say the least, but this one is refreshingly simple. Josh accepts his sexuality and throws himself into the deep end of his new life. The series explores his attempts at dating and navigating all the various relationships around him.
The beauty of Please Like Me is how grounded and relatable the show feels. Television tends to glamorise people’s lives. They have fancy apartments, cool jobs, and over-the-top plot twists a-plenty. That’s not the case here. Josh lives a simple life and his friends are the kind you have in real life.
While Please Like Me is very much an LGBT show, it also reconciles that element of his life with the regular day-to-day stuff. For every story arc about finding casual sex on Grindr, there’s one about dealing with being unemployed. For every story arc about going to a gay bar, there’s one about managing various predicaments of your parents.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Piper Chapman’s past most definitely catches up with her when she finds herself sentenced at Litchfield Penitentiary for crimes she committed when she was young and stupid. Orange is the New Black takes us inside the brave new world that is a women’s prison, through this middle class, white girl perspective.
The prison’s population couldn’t get more diverse. There’s people of all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of life experiences that conspired to bring them together.
It doesn’t take long for Piper to realise another aspect of her past has caught up with her, when Alex Vause makes her presence known. These two dated back in their formative drug smuggling days. Prison gives them the opportunity to reconnect.
Saying Orange is the New Black has LGBT themes is an understatement. It’s easily one of the most progressive and representative shows on television at the moment. There’s lesbian characters, bisexual characters, and a trans character too. The show elegantly takes the time to take on this subject matter in a respectful way that is in no way superficial or stereotypical. It’s also just really good watching.
There’s no point denying it, Grey’s Anatomy is a prime time soap opera, plain and simple. So many plot twists have occurred over the show’s twelve seasons. There’s been explosions and plane crashes. People have been hit by busses and electrocuted. So many couples of different make-ups have had sex in the on call room. Things tend to get interesting at Grey Sloane hospital.
There’s been many topical case-of-the-weeks involving LGBT story lines throughout the show’s run.
We’ve seen two teenage girls throw themselves into the path of a train so they could be together. We’ve seen a father coming to terms with the fact that his soldier son is dating a man. We’ve seen both sides of what it means for a family member to transition. Then there’s a character named Callie Torres…
Callie was introduced in the show’s second season as a love interest for one of the male characters. It was eventually revealed that she was bisexual. As the show progressed, Callie began to explore that side of her, dating women and men a-like. One of the longest running and more complicated relationships on the show was between Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins, another doctor at the hospital.
Sense8 is perhaps the most beautifully diverse show on television. It’s co-created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the two trans women who brought The Matrix films to the big screen. It features a cast of characters from all walks of life, scattered all around the globe, who find themselves inexplicably and psychically connected to one another. The story is all about working out what’s behind this connection.
Saying this show has LGBT themes is underselling the series in a massive way.
Nomi Marks is a transgender woman living in San Francisco with her girlfriend, played by trans actress Jamie Clayton. Lito Rodriguez is a closeted gay actor living in Mexico with his boyfriend Hernando. This alone gives the series more LGBT street cred than everything else on TV, but it’s not the extent of what’s on offer here. We explore their struggles with identity and the very human parts of these characters that ground the high concept weirdness in reality with a warm sense of empathy.
Openly gay writer Alan Ball has spent his career bringing compelling stories to television and the big screen. He cut his teeth working on things like American Beauty and Six Feet Under. When it was announced that he was going to be bringing Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries book series to HBO, it seemed like quite the departure for the guy. In implementation? It really wasn’t!
True Blood was the result of this collaboration, taking place in a small town by the name of Bon Temps in Louisiana. This unique backdrop was where we met Sookie Stackhouse, our protagonist. Her relatively ordinary life working at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill takes a turn when a vampire walks through the door. It’s safe to say that things would never be the same for this unassuming town.
Through the course of the seven season run, we’re given an incredibly stylised and batshit crazy look into a unique world of monsters and humans living together. There’s most definitely LGBT aspects to this story, just like in Alan Ball’s previous work – with gay characters and sexual fluidity explored.
OTHER SHOWS YOU SHOULD WATCH:
Wentworth, The 100, The L Word, Oz, Queer As Folk (US and UK versions), Skins and Xena: Warrior Princess