ABC featured 20 lesbian or bisexual characters, 16 of which had main or recurring roles. We analyzed primetime scripted TV shows that aired on ABC between June 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016. To qualify, a character had to appear in more than 1 episode.
As expected, shows produced by Shonda Rhimes make up a good portion of the positive representation on ABC. Rhimes is one of the few executive producers on television to speak consistently about the necessity of positive representation, and follow through in her productions.
“I really hate the word ‘diversity,’ it suggests something… other. As if it is something… special. Or rare,” Rhimes says. “As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: NORMALIZING. I’m normalizing TV.” (Huffington Post).
Other main or recurring characters have not fared so well: The Catch introduces a bi character for 3 episodes only to have her killed off by a jealous boyfriend (update: the character was resurrected in the 2016-2017 season). Bridey on The Family falls into both the predatory lesbian trope and the dead lesbian trope, and on Mistresses, Josslyn’s sexuality was forgotten while another openly bi character this season was killed.
Other characters can be classified as guest characters with little/no presence. In one case (Hannah on Quantico) the extent of the bisexual representation is Hanna mentioning she’s bi over a phone call, before she leaves the show. Similarly, on Once Upon a Time, a show that has been on air for 5 seasons and has a large LGBT fanbase, Dorothy and Ruby are their first (and only) openly lesbian/bi characters and their story together begins and ends in one episode.