EXCLUSIVE: As the landscape of television changes, there have been huge strides in the representation of people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and marginalized communities. With shows like Insecure, Master of None, black-ish, Fresh off the Boat and nearly every show in Shondaland, diversity, and intersectionality are on the rise when it comes to television. In a recent study conducted by TV Time, the world’s largest TV tracking app, they show that even though television is getting woke, it still doesn’t reflect the color we see in America.
TV Time analyzed 130 million votes from their community of global users to determine the top 100 favorite characters from 2015-2017. Their user base consists of those who fall under the Millennials and Gen Y umbrella (ages 18-34). The app allowed them to self-report their favorite characters on television and despite all of the progress we have seen on TV in the past three years, it still doesn’t quite hit the mark.
For characters of color, there was a 20% increase, jumping from 15% of the overall favorite characters in 2015, to 18% of the favorite character vote in 2017. Great, huh? It may seem so, but even though there was an increase in the number of actors that are chosen as favorites who are persons of color, the numbers aren’t exactly breaking records.
In 2017, there were 18 characters of color in the top 100. In fact, TV Time’s study does not have a person of color in the top 10 for 2017 besides Wentworth Miller (Prison Break), who is half Black. The next actor of color doesn’t appear on the list until number 28 with Priyanka Chopra who stars in ABC’s Quantico. However, the top 10 includes openly gay actors Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) and the aforementioned Miller — but they do not play LGBTQ characters on their respective shows. The same goes for Neil Patrick Harris, who came in at number 13. He plays womanizer Barney Stinson on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother.
When it comes to LGBTQ characters on TV, from 2015 to 2017, TV Time saw a 57% increase in LGBTQ favorite character votes. According to their rankings, LGBTQ characters make up 11% of the top 100 characters in 2017. The first queer character that appears on the top 100 list for 2017 is Matthew Daddario’s Alec Lightwood in Shadowhunters. Daddario’s Shadowhunters co-star Harry Shum Jr. also plays the bisexual character Magnus Bane. Other actors on the list who play characters with queer narratives are Miguel Ángel Silvestre for Sense8, Caity Lotz on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Taylor Schilling in Orange is the New Black as well as Jack Falahee and Viola Davis in How To Get Away With Murder.
On the female front, favorites are on the decline. The number of female characters in the top 100 have fallen over the past two years. From 2016 to 2017 there was a decrease in favorite female characters of 11.2%. There is an even sharper drop if you narrow the focus to just the top 25 favorite characters. Among the top 25 favorite characters in 2017, only 6 were women. That marks a 40% drop over 2015 when 10 of the top 25 favorite characters were women. The first woman to appear on the 2017 list is Marie Avgeropoulos from The 100 who barely breaks the top 10.
When all is said and done, diversity may be on the rise, but it doesn’t reflect the American population which 50.8%2 of the people are female, 23.1%3 are people of color and 4.8%1 identify as LGBTQ.