“[Representation] creates a gentler challenge of our idea of what is normal. I really hate that word for applying to humans in any way. But representation creates a sense of normalcy in the fact that sexuality is diverse, gender is diverse, bodies are diverse. People come in all shapes and colours and sexualities,” Angel Sumka, President of ASPECC (Alberta Sex Positive Education and Community Centre), explains.
According to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), an LGBTQA+ advocacy and awareness group, there has been a decrease in representation in popular film studios in the past year. In contrast, smaller studio films and television networks have improved their inclusion percentage since 2016.
This representation provides visibility to the LGBTQA+ community by showing their stories to the audience and showing them as people that the audience can relate to.
“I was always envious of the people around my age that were straight. Things were just easier for them. Not perfect, but easier,” Laurie Hansen says. Straight characters and relationships are the most commonly shown in the media. There is no shortage of characters for straight youth to relate to and use as role models. It’s not the same with LGBTQA+ representation.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have other identities acknowledged in film. But then you’ll always hear complaints like ‘oh I don’t care how anyone lives their lives, but I don’t like it being rubbed in my face,’ as if straight relationships aren’t rubbed in our face every day,” Ada Szulski, an asexual university student, says. “Lack of representation reaffirms the cis straight person as the norm.”
Having LGBTQA+ characters in film and television is important because it challenges the notion that being cisgender and straight is normal or better than LGBTQA+ identities. Sumka emphasizes the importance of representation since it allows people to know about the community and realize that it’s an option.
The community has pushed for equal rights and won them over this recent decade. Because of this, the media is paying more attention and providing representation. Unfortunately, this representation, for the most part, is a token representation that is heavily stereotyped.
The stereotypes include lesbians in flannel and short hair, pornographic lesbians, gay men with lisps, and pansexuals that are hipsters. Films and television further several stereotypes about the LGBTQA+ community. They’re easily recognizable and thus easier to write. This results in representations that aren’t relatable or realistic but come to be expected as standard.
Hansen explains that there were several times when people told her she didn’t look like a lesbian. She wore her hair long and didn’t adhere to the “butch” or “lipstick lesbian” stereotypes. Because of her appearance, they assumed that she was straight.
“You can be straight and dress up however you want to dress up as a woman, and you’re edgy. But it seems like when you’re queer and dress up, you confuse everybody,” she continues.
These stereotypes don’t represent the community, which is diverse in age, gender identity, relationships, ethnicity, personality, and appearance. There needs to be more of a portrayal of LGBQA+ people as people and not as a character only characterized by their sexual orientation or their gender identity. There is room for improvement.
To have accurate representation, the characters must reflect the real-life individuals that exist, not just the stereotypes.
“Representation matters, of course. Especially in a period of humanity where we’re allowed to talk about that and be open and not be offended,” explains Josh, a university student. He explains that this is a great time to expand upon the LGBTQA+ discussion.
“It feels good to relate to others, even if these people only exist in film. It’s like when Black Panther was released. Part of the reason it got so huge, apart from being a heckin’ awesome superhero film, was that black kids could finally look up to a superhero that looked like them. People want to be represented,” Szulski comments.
This article, “LGBTQA+ Representation in Film and Television” was Originally published at https://the53rdyeg.home.blog on April 6, 2019.