With LGBT characters starting to become far more mainstream in recent years, I want to take a look at how well they are portrayed.
So I’m going to list my 5 best examples of LGBT characters and my 5 worst, based on their iconic status or accurate portrayal. For this list I’m using the characters sexuality and identity only, not the actors who portray them.
1. Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor)
Transparent. A sensitive and moving portrait of a trans-woman struggling to come to terms with her gender identity and having to come out to her family as transgender. Transparent depicts the struggles that families go through when a loved one comes out with a secret like this. Luckily the series doesn’t sensationalise the issue, nor does it become offensive of the portrayal of Maura, who says the most wonderful line “All my life, my whole life I’ve been dressing up like a man, this is me” Definitely worth a watch.
2. Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres)
Ellen. In the 1997 The Puppy Episode the character of Ellen loudly announced to a whole airport terminal she was gay and made television history in the process. DeGeneres herself came out on the same day to Oprah (who had guest starred in the episode) and the show took a light hearted comedic approach to the character who’s sexuality had always been a source of speculation. However after the episode aired ratings started to decline and criticisms were aimed at the writers for concentrating too much on the gay aspect of a character and the show was cancelled a year later.
3. Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Not only was she a bad-ass powerful witch, she knew how to kick a bad guys behind. Hints of her sexuality were alluded to in season 3, but she didn’t come out as gay properly until mid-way through season 4 when she got her first girlfriend, fellow witch Tara. For the rest of the 4th season and throughout the 5th & 6th seasons Willow and Tara showed every aspect of a gay relationship with it’s ups and downs, until the death of Tara at the end of season 6. By the 7th season a new lesbian character was introduced in Kennedy who was almost predatory in her pursuit of Willow and the series took a nosedive in quality.
4. Jack Twist & Ennis Del Mar (Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger)
Brokeback Mountain.Yep it’s a sad one, the tale of two ranch men trying to contain their feelings for one another while stuck in the wilderness of the American West. Much speculation about the characters’ sexuality has been talked about, but the common theory is that Jack is bisexual, and Ennis is straight questioning. But the story is both heartbreaking and sensitive and the characters are portrayed excellently with little done to show it as shocking and done purely for sensationalism. Even cowboys fall in love folks
5. Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris & Michael Gambon)
Harry Potter series. While it’s never specifically mentioned in the films or books that Dumbledore is actually gay, JK Rowling confirmed it and has staunchly defended the fact she made the character gay. Dumbledore is a wise and caring man who knew right from wrong and even suffered heartbreak when the man he fell in love with as a youth turned out to be a dark wizard. Sometimes there isn’t a need to be overt with a character and he can still be a role model.
Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) – Philadelphia
Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) – Orange is the New Black
Dr Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) – Rocky Horror Picture Show
Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) – The Birdcage
And now for the 5 worst
1. Ben Mitchell (Various)
Eastenders. From a preening little boy dancing to Lady Gaga he went on to turn into a violent and lascivious teenager with a serious attitude problem. Ben Mitchell is a terrible example of a gay character who has no qualms about having sex in a funeral parlour next to an open coffin, while also deceiving his girlfriend and having gay flings behind her back. Eastenders has written a character with every possible worst gay stereotype they could think of.
2. Stuart Jones (Aidan Gillan)
Queer as Folk UK version. While the series was written by a gay man, there is nothing redeeming about the main character of Stuart Jones, who doesn’t think twice before sleeping with a horny 15 year old boy and coming across as a nasty individual overall. He embodies the worst aspects of gay life. Yes the series is iconic for the time it was broadcast and introduced gay men onto mainstream TV, but the characters are portrayed as drug addled sluts.
3. Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer)
Glee. Now before you jab me with the pitchfork and tell me how I should be respectful of all gay characters even if they are effeminate, I shall say I have no problem with my effeminate brothers, but the character of Kurt uses every effeminate gay stereotype one can think of and simplifies it to a level that is almost painful. He’s bitchy, jealous and overly emotional which is a stereotype gay men are trying to get away from
4. Ricki/Rochelle (Jennifer Lopez)
Gigli. It’s so easy to take pot shots at this travesty of a film simply for existing because it really is a bad bad film. But the horrifically over simplified notion of “a lesbian just needs the right penis” is shocking in its idea that a lesbian character can so easily change sexuality when faced with Ben Affleck and his lesbian curing dong.
5. Caherine Tramell (Sharon Stone)
Basic Instinct. Did you know bisexuals will literally sleep with anyone for any reason and use lady sex as a way to turn men on and then turn into a murderous psychopath? Well, that’s what Basic Instinct would have you believe anyway when it comes to the main character. A violent individual who uses her bisexuality to get her own way. Not a very nice portrayal really
Jame Gumb (Ted Levine) – Silence of The Lambs
Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner) – The L Word
La Tenia (Jo Prestia) – Irréversible
Waylon Smithers (Harry Shearer) – The Simpsons
by Andy Elliot Griffiths / @AndyEG1982