For queer people, the path has been long and tiring, but alas, they have reached a place that is not all bad. I mean, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to equal rights for them in most parts of the world – and even in places that recognise their rights, they are still likely to face discrimination. Let’s just say life for queer folks is not easy. But over the years, several shows and movies have tried (even if only a little bit) to help the community. Media shapes the world that we live in, and it would be wrong to discount their role in helping the LGBTQ+ movement. With that, we bring you 11 shows that helped changing perspectives about LGBTQ+ people.
Now, let’s get back to our list of shows that helped changing perspectives about LGBTQ+ community.
Before Ellen DeGeneres got her own talk show, she starred in a sitcom titled Ellen. Although Ellen herself has been a controversial figure of late, owing to reports of harassment and abuse of power on her talk show, Ellen was quite the revolutionary back in the 90s. Not only did she come out as a lesbian in real life, she had her character do the same on the show she starred in, despite astounding amount of backlash. It caused quite the controversy back in the day because Ellen played the titular role, and the broadcasting channel had to place a parental advisory before the show.
While there’s an acceptable amount of awareness about homosexuality today, the same cannot be said for the general perspective of the transgender community – which is a shame because the modern LGBTQ+ movement was a result of sacrifice by several transgender women of colour. For the most part of cinematic history, producers have chosen cis people to tell stories about the trans community. However, Supergirl took a step in the right direction by introducing a superhero that’s not only a transgender woman on the show, she is played by an actual transgender actress, Nicole Maines. Now that’s walking the talk!
3. Grey’s Anatomy
Even though awareness about the LGBTQ+ community in general has improved over the years, bisexual erasure is still a thing. Bisexual people are often forced to “stick” to a particular sexuality, and are expected to either conform to being straight or gay. However, Grey’s Anatomy introduced a bisexual character back in season 4. Even though Callie Torres started off as a supposedly straight woman, she eventually came out as bi, and what’s better – was the longest running LGBT character in US television history. She also made up half of the most loved same-sex couple on the show. The actor who played the character, Sara Ramirez, also came out as bisexual and non-binary in real life.
4. Orange is The New Black
While there are many shows that run with the whole LGBTQ thing just for the sake of it, there are also shows like Orange is The New Black that stayed faithful to a vision that was queer from the start. Not only was OITNB one of the longest running Netflix original shows, it was also one of the most watched. The show introduced audiences to an unprecedented number of queer characters on screen, including Sophia Burset played by Laverne Cox, who turned into a trans icon in a matter of years and was the first trans woman on the cover of Cosmopolitan. Quite undoubtedly, Orange is The New Black is one of the best shows that helped changing perspectives about LGBTQ+ people.
5. Schitt’s Creek
There are shows whose support for the LGBTQ+ community is loud and roaring, but there are also shows like Schitt’s Creek whose activism lies with their complete unacknowledged acceptance for one of its main character’s sexuality. In one of the earliest episodes on the show, when David is asked what his sexual preferences are, he simply says: “I’m into the wine, not the labels.” There’s still a lot of misinformation when it comes to pansexuality, but David’s approach breaks it down for the viewer in the simplest way possible. It is also important that his character faces no homophobia on the show whatsoever – he is accepted as he is, and nobody makes a big deal about it – as if hinting at the possibility of a world where being gay is not a thing – just like being straight isn’t a thing. It just is. Interestingly, for its final season, Schitt’s Creek made a clean sweep at the Primetime Emmys and won awards in all seven major categories for a comedy.
6. Noah’s Arc
It’s easy to blame showrunners from yesteryears for not having enough representation on their shows – however you also have to take into account that even when groundbreaking ideas materialised into shows, the shows couldn’t always stay afloat for long enough owing to controversies or poor viewership. Even though Noah’s Arc had a promising concept, the show, to put it simply, probably came out a decade too early. Focusing on a group of black gay friends, the show dealt with important issues like HIV awareness as well as lighter themes like gay dating. While the show probably would have done marvelously today, it wasn’t as warmly received back then. However, let’s not lose hope – a reboot might just be in the pipeline.
7. RuPaul’s Drag Race
While drag is still not a popular concept in India, (although it’s not unheard of) it has gathered much steam in the USA, thanks to the wildly popular reality TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show features a competition between drag queens who compete to win the title of “America’s next drag superstar.” The critically acclaimed show has run for 13 seasons now and has become an iconic part of pop-culture. The show has proven to be enormously helpful in destroying gender barriers and stereotypes, and promotes fluidity.
8. Queer Eye
While the idea of five gay men giving a makeover to people who need it might sound bankable now, but to imagine that showrunner David Collins conceived that idea in the early 2000s AND found a broadcasting channel that ran the show is noteworthy in itself. While Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003-2007) was revolutionary without a doubt, its reboot on Netflix has garnered much affection and praise. Queer Eye (2018-) follows the run of the mill make-over show format, but with the added spice of it being hosted by five woke, politically engaged, empathetic and attractive gay men. Queer Eye is an absolute treat to watch, especially when you’re feeling down and need some self-love, and is one of the best shows that helped changing perspectives about LGBTQ+ people you can watch.
9. Modern Family
Same sex parents are no longer a novelty on modern day television and cinema. But even a decade ago, it was not quite so normalised to have a prime time show have as its main characters two gay men raising an adopted Asian child. However, Modern Family did it and succeeded wonderfully. In the past, showrunners were deterred from having LGBTQ+ characters on the screen fearing public retaliation, but Modern Family’s success is proof that times have changed. Despite its progressive message, the show is one of the most popular sitcoms in recent US history. Modern Family’s gay couple, Mitch and Cam, tied the knot after gay marriage was legalised in California in a widely viewed episode that encouraged positive conversations about marriage equality ahead of the landmark ruling in 2015 that legalised gay marriage all over America.
As a modern viewer, it is easy to say that Friends is problematic by our standards. And you’re right too. The show has many, many problems – but one has to acknowledge that it is a product of its time. The show came out in 1994 – much before many of us were born. Let’s not forget that it was only a decade before this that world governments had actively stepped back from research about AIDS because it was a gay issue – and to have a lesbian marriage on a prime time, widely watched show was brave, to say the least. But Friends did it. Now, Friends’s portrayal of its gay couple wasn’t all positive, and many times they were reduced to be the butt of the joke – but it was still a step ahead. Even though the show made a fair amount of jokes on the sexuality of its lesbian couple, at the same time it showed them as loving, perfectly capable, and giving parents.
11. Brooklyn Nine Nine
Marginalization does not come the same way to everyone – it has layers and levels. Brooklyn Nine Nine acknowledges this head on – with a black gay man as its main character who is very vocal about the discrimination he’s faced as an African American gay man. Brooklyn Nine Nine is extremely respectful about its character’s struggles, but still doesn’t let them eclipse his other quirks and features. It presents the viewer with a well-rounded character who is aware of his sexuality and marginalization and yet is much, much more than them. Also, Brooklyn Nine Nine is one of the few sitcoms that’s feminist and isn’t shy to admit it. Double treat!
Did you like our list of the best shows that helped changing perspectives about LGBTQ+ people? Did we miss any of your favourite shows you think belong in this list? Comment below to let us know!