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Experts See All Sides of New GLAAD Report Finding Record Number of LGBT Characters on TV

Released: 8-Oct-2012 11:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Available for logged-in reporters only

In light of GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” 2012-2013 season report (http://bit.ly/WumkiH) finding the number of LGBT characters on television has risen to the highest ever recorded, Cornell University is making several experts available for comment to the media.

Nicholas Salvato, professor of theatre and author of “Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance,” says:

“The recently reported statistic about a large increase in LGBT representations on television is an interesting one. But part of what makes it interesting is what it doesn’t tell us about different forms of narrative television programming. How many of these representations are sophisticated and complex, and how many are cartoonish? When do the representations that trade on stereotypes do so in sly or reflexive ways, and when are they merely repeating damaging clichés about LGBT lives? Which representations do television-viewing members of LGBT communities admire, and which trouble them?

“One damaging use of statistics like this one is their misapplication to suggest, over-simplistically, progress in LGBT representations on TV—and for that reason to align with other myths about LGBT progress in media. As wonderful historians of television have compellingly argued, looking carefully at the archive, it simply isn’t true that ‘it gets better’ for LGBT people – and their avatars – on TV. Some of the most vital and nuanced gay characterizations in television were made in supposedly benighted, earlier periods like the 1970s and even the 1950s, and some of the lamest are on our screens right now. So we should tune in with curiosity—and also some healthy skepticism—about what’s queer on TV today.”

Ellen Gainor, professor of performing and media arts who is currently working on the study “Performance of Gender in Same-Sex Ballroom Dance,” says:

“I see all this in terms of commercial forces. Advertisers have realized that there is a market that is gay-friendly, gay-tolerant, and so gay content is now more visible because it can sell.”

Brenda Marston, curator of the Human Sexuality Collection at the Cornell University Library, says:

"Whether it reflects increased acceptance or smart marketing, it's positive to see more LGBT characters show up across the networks, and especially good to see people of color in a third of these regular season roles. These changes mean more LGBT people are bound to see characters that reflect their own experience, and all audiences are treated to more nuanced images of LGBT people."

For interviews contact:
Syl Kacapyr
(607) 255-7701
vpk6@cornell.edu

Contact Syl Kacapyr for information about Cornell's TV and radio studios.

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