In 2016-2017 there were 15 lesbian and bisexual characters on FOX. With TV struggling after a very deadly year in 2015-2016, the number of characters is still down from 17 last season. The number of new characters introduced is the lowest since 2013-2014, while the number of character exits (cancellations, characters written off and deaths) more than triples it, leaving only 5 alive and expected to return next season.
In 2016-2017 on CBS, there were only 5 lesbian and bisexual female characters, the lowest number since 2010-2011. Overall, CBS has a low rate of representation in general, with only 29 characters in total since 1976, when Julie Solkin became the first lesbian character on TV, and the first victim of the Bury Your Gays trope.
In 2016-2017 on NBC, there were only 3 lesbian and bisexual female characters. The network’s rate of representation has been declining for 4 seasons, with less characters introduced each season, and a large percentage of characters killed off. This year marked the lowest number of characters on NBC since 2010-2011, and the lowest number of new characters since 2011-2012.
The total number of bisexual female characters on TV since 1983, over the course of 33 years, represents 0.5% of heterosexual characters in one year. With a desire to paint a clearer picture of exactly how female bisexuality is treated on television, we have embarked on a project to create a database that will provide insight into both the quality and quantity of female bisexual representation, as well as identifying the common tropes that go along with it.
List of all lesbian and bisexual female characters featured on scripted broadcast TV in the 2015-2016 season. Of the 1936 main/recurring characters, only 34 of were lesbian/bisexual women – our rate of representation is 1.75%, and 13 (38%) of those are dead at the end of the season.
While not the deadliest network, the lesbian/bi characters killed on The CW this season had arguably the most impact on the fan community. The CW featured 11 lesbian/bisexual female characters, 8 of which had main/recurring roles, out of 298 main/recurring total characters. 5 of them are dead at the end of the season.
On the 18 scripted TV shows that aired on FOX, lesbian/bisexual women account for 3.3% of main/recurring characters (274 total characters, a number much lower than on other networks), and, according to Vox, 10.7% of all deaths. They are still killed at a rate 3 times higher than their appearance rate.
ABC featured 20 lesbian or bisexual characters, 16 of which had main or recurring roles. We analyzed prime time 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.
Only 5 of the 27 scripted TV shows that aired during the 2015-2016 season on CBS featured lesbian/bisexual female characters. A total of only 8 characters, and 5 are now dead (that’s 62.5% dead). Except for Person of Interest, where the lesbian character dies and becomes the voice of an AI, none of them had significant storylines.
Out of 23 scripted TV shows that aired in the 2015-2016 season on NBC, there were only 7 lesbian or bisexual female characters. Compared to last season, with 9 characters, it’s a 22% decrease and 36% decrease since 2013-2014 season. Two of them are dead and only one remains alive and is expected to return.
A trope is by definition, a pattern in storytelling. Lesbian and bisexual women are killed off at alarming rates, usually soon after finding happiness. TV shows don’t exist in a vacuum and each of these shows add to the trope and contribute to the overall TV landscape in the same way.
Producers gathered at the ATX Festival on Saturday morning to address the Bury Your Gays trope. The one hour panel was called “Bury Your Tropes” and consisted mainly of the involved speakers defending their right to use the trope. As fans and consumers of media, we are naturally dismayed at the lack of understanding, or even attempt at understanding, the issues surrounding the Bury Your Gays trope as discussed by the panelists. In a time of so much outcry over the disproportionate death of LGBT+ characters on television, it is uniquely frustrating to be misunderstood and maligned time and time again.
Every time a lesbian or bisexual character is killed off, statements from television writers, producers, and showrunners can be summarized as a collection of ‘excuses’ justifying why their own stories do not fit the tropes and citing creative freedom. The problem is not that LGBT characters are killed because of their sexuality within the story, but the disproportionately high number of lesbian and bisexual characters killed off, compared to the low rate of representation.