Shows That Represent the LGBTQ+ Community Well (and Shows That Don't)

Shows That Represent the LGBTQ+ Community Well (and Shows That Don't)


October 31, 2020

There are many shows out there that have characters that represent the LGBTQ+ community, but some shows do it better than others. Here are the shows that do it well, the ones that don't, and why.

How the shows will be judged

1. Possible scores: Good, Bad, Medium. Good is exceptional in representation, bad means the representation is not done well, and medium means it depends on who you ask.

2. I will be looking at the show as if someone was viewing it when it first premiered.

3. Quality > Quantity. If a show has a lot of representation done poorly, it will rank lower than a show with less representation done well.

4. No reality tv shows will be featured for obvious reasons.

5. Are the LGBTQ+ characters played by people from the community. If a straight character plays a gay one, I won't be that mad if it is done well. However, if a cis person plays a trans person, no matter how good the representation is, it's getting a medium at most and will likely end up with a bad.

Disclaimer: I will not be judging the quality of the entire show, just the LGBTQ+ relationships

Also, this list will talk about plot points in each so, beware of spoilers.

Onto the list:

1. Glee (Bad)

One of my favorite shows in middle school. It's safe to say that it did not age well, but even if you were viewing it when it premiered, it was still lacking in the LGBTQ+ department. First off, Klaine was toxic.

At the time there were not that many teen shows that had LQBTQ+ characters at all, let alone relationships that got more than a few scenes in the series. Klaine showed all teens that cheating and deception are normal in relationships. While straight teens can look up to other couples for #relationshipgoals, queer teens did not really have any other couples to look up to.

The problems don't stop there, whenever a new LGBTQ+ side character was introduced, they were usually used to stir drama with the main LGBTQ+ characters and did not get much representation besides their orientation. Another reason is that one of the trans characters, Unique, still allowed other characters to refer to her by her deadname even when she was fully out. I am not trans, but I know from my trans friends that it hearing a deadname causes discomfort, even when it wasn't referring to themselves.

Not to mention, both trans characters on the show were played by cis actors. The only thing Glee did right for the LGBTQ+ community was Santana Lopez, a lesbian character not defined by her sexuallity.

2. Faking It (Good)

Faking It was a show about two best friends who decide to pretend to be the school's first lesbian couple for popularity, though one of them isn't faking their feelings. While I personally haven't seen the show, it has a wide variety of queer characters, most of which were played by LGBTQ+ actors. Not only that, but it had the first main intersex character and the first intersex character played by an intersex actor. Even though the main intersex character was not played by an intersex actor, the fact that it had one intersex character, let alone two, is impressive.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Medium)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the first teen shows to have an queer main character. Not only that but it showed a healthy relationship between Willow and Tara. Who doesn't want to see badass witch lesbians?

However, it is medium because the writers decided to go with the "bury your gays" trope by killing Tara, showing that queer characters can't have a happy ending. They also decided to include Dark Willow, and though she's not completely evil, it has the "villainize queer characters" trope which is also damaging to impressionable youth.

4. Riverdale (Bad)

Where to start with this show? Kevin is a side character that barely gets any screen time. The only storylines he and Toni, a bisexual character, have something to do with their love interests.

Speaking of Toni in the Heathers musical episode, she almost has a [censored], which enhances the 'all bisexuals are promiscuous' stereotype. And that is just what we see on the camera! In the comics, Jughead is canonically asexual.

While asexuals can have romantic relationships, Jughead is definitely not asexual. Despite all the wrong ways this show deals with LGBTQ+ characters, I have to admit that it did well with Cheryl's coming out story. While a lot of parents are accepting of their kids, I know not all of them are, and Cheryl did the right thing by cutting Penelope out after she broke out of conversion therapy.

5. Brooklyn 99 (Good)

I will keep talking about this show until I die. Captain Holt's sexuality is not the main part of his character and his husband is casually mentioned without anyone else making a huge deal about it. Also, in season 5 when Rosa came out as bisexual, everyone at the precinct accepted her. When they heard that her parents didn't accept her yet, they came over to her house to cheer her up with a game night.

6. Pretty Little Liars (Bad)

First, Emily doesn't really stay with any girl for that long, and I am pretty sure one tried to drown her before they started dating, so she didn't make the best dating decisions. They also have a trans villain who, as far as I know, is the only trans character on the show. If the only trans character on the show is a villain, that sends the message that most trans characters are not good people.

She was also played by a cis actress. If you want to represent trans people, hire trans actors! If you want to show them as bad people, then add other characters to show the villain as the exception, not the rule.

7. Pose (Good)

The show's main focus is on Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people in the 1980s/90s New York City, and the execution is amazing. Five of the main characters are trans people played by trans actors, the rest of the main cast is made up of LGBTQ+ actors playing LGBTQ+ characters. All the characters exist as characters besides their identity. Not only that, but the show also displays authentic LGBTQ+ storylines relevant to the time period it takes place.

8. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Good)

I love this show. All the characters treat the queer community as accepted, as it should be in media and in real life. Bow and Scorpia have same-sex parents (Dads and Moms respectively).

There is a Non-Binary Shapeshifter who even the bad guys use the correct pronouns when referring to them. Multiple characters are also in gay relationships, most notably Adora and Catra who kissed in the season finale to the joy of the many fans (including myself) who have been shipping them since the show premiered.

9. Arrow-verse shows (Medium)

This one depends on which show you look at. The Flash made the police chief (who we barely see) gay and had another gay character a villain who got a redemption arc that got erased after the crisis, and he became a bad guy again, not great. They also had a queer character, Nora West-Allen, who was an interesting character erased from existence, granted she was from the future, but it still hurt.

Arrow did better with making Curtis and Will's sexuality a minor part of who they are as a character. I haven't seen Batwoman yet, but I think that Kate's sexuality is a minor part of her character.

Let's hope it's the same with Ryan Wilder when season 2 premieres. Same with Black Lightning: I haven't seen it but Anissa's character is unapologetic with her preference. Legends of Tomorrow shows a woman loves woman couple in a healthy relationship and multiple bisexual characters. Supergirl has both a lesbian main character and a trans main character played by a trans woman.

Any others I missed, or do you believe that show on the list was not correctly ranked? Let me know in the comments.

Lauren Pantazes

Writer since Oct, 2020 · 2 published articles

Lauren Pantazes has loved writing since she was in third grade. She is currently a senior and working towards going to college. When she is not writing she is usually working on whatever crafts she can get her hands on.