There’s never been more LGBT characters on network television, and according to a panel discussion tonight at the Writers Guild, there’s never been a better time to write about LGBT characters. The old stereotypes are out, and the new openness is in. Six of the seven panelists are writers and showrunners on network shows that feature LGBT characters, and when asked, none could recall a single horror story of network interference or censorship.
“We’ve never gotten notes,” said Peter Nowalk, showrunner on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. Even a scene involving a particularly risque sex act – a first for network television – got on the air. Sure, broadcast standards wanted it to be handled tastefully, so to speak, but pushing the sexual envelope is now almost required. “People get used to it,” he said.
“The landscape has changed,” said Aline Brosh McKenna, co-creator of the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. “The networks want to raise the bar. Cable and streaming are out-pacing the networks, so they want to remain relevant.”
The networks want to “go for it” and to “be edgy,” said Becky Mann, a writer on ABC’s The Real O’Neals, which features a 16-year-old gay character named Kenny.
The The Real O’Neals has been criticized — it has a PG rating, but the conservative Parents Television Council believes that it typifies everything that’s wrong with television, accusing it of making jokes about child molestation and pedophilia. Earlier in the day, organization called on the FCC to reign in the networks, citing a study from March of what it considers to be a high amount of adult content on the show and in a press release called for “the FCC and Congress to overhaul the TV Content Ratings System.”
Mann acknowledged that the show has received “blowback” from some viewers, but said that it was mostly from viewers who had not seen the show, which, in fact, does not make light of child molestation or pedophilia.
Moderated by Gregg Hernandez, panelists included Rachel Bloom, star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Dan Goor, executive producer of Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Sonay Hoffman, a writer on American Crime; Jennie Snyder Urman, executive producer of Jane the Virgin, and Carter Covington, who developed and serves as showrunner of MTV’s Faking It.
The panelists all agreed that LGBT characters have become the new norm on television; that stereotypes are disappearing, and that television has, as Hernandez put it, contributed to more and more people realizing that LGBTs “are just like everyone else.”
This article was updated for clarity.