This article was published on December 19th, 2016
Television has long been used as a medium to reflect society. To change the way people view things it is important to look at the way things could be. It enables people to view situations they may not otherwise interact with and thus normalise them. TV has played a vital role in helping the LGBT movement move forward by normalising non-conventional sexual orientations and gender identities. Over the years there have been many tv shows that have braved the challenges and smashed the norms. These are the 10 most important TV shows that braved to challenges and smashed the norms to bring gay culture into millions of homes around the world.
Will and Grace: A sitcom following the lives of Will (a gay man) and his straight best friend Grace, the show has often been accused of playing into unhelpful gay stereotypes. Whether you agree or disagree, Will and Grace pushed queer culture into the spotlight and its camp humour went down a storm with global audiences.
Queer as Folk: Queer as folk caused uproar with its graphic sex scenes, sensationally bad language and its raw gritty portrayal of modern gay culture. Set in Manchester, it focuses on the grittier side of gay life, avoiding the glitz and glamour gay culture is often shrouded with on television. Ground breaking in its realism, Queer as Folk brought the normality of gay culture onto our television.
Orange is the new black: Following the lives of a prison full of women, the show has been hailed as ground breaking in the way it handles lesbian relationships. Focusing on the trials of daily life in prison, rather than the gay relationships on the show, Orange is the new Black had helped us moved beyond ‘token’ lesbian relationships to seeing gay characters as individuals.
Ellen: Possibly one of the most important shows on this list, following the life of Ellen – a single woman running a bookshop – Ellen acted with astonishing bravery in the infamous ‘Puppy’ episode by coming out publicly at a time when tensions between mainstream society and the LGBT community were at an all time high. Causing a public out roar that ultimately resulted in Ellen being publicly shunned. She made herself the iconic figure we know today by elegantly braving the fire storm that was the public reaction to Ellen and opened the door for so many others to come out.
RuPauls Drag Race: Much like RuPaul himself, Drag Race is steeped in controversy. The show designed to launch the careers of the best drag queens has brought drag culture well and truly into the mainstream. Drag is the fiercest aspect of the LGBT community, it embodies all that is empowering, strong utterly fabulous and endlessly laughing in the face of haters.
Skins: The British show that followed the lives of a group of British teenagers who changed every two years dealt with a variety of social issues faced by the youth of today. Their consistent inclusion of LGBT roles and the rawness with which they dealt with the issues faced by them opened peoples eyes to the reality of being an LGBT youth in Britain today.
Modern Family: Modern Family is a documentary style sitcom focusing on taking an honest (and hilarious) look at unconventional family structures. It brought the relationship of gay couple Mitch and Cam significantly into the mainstream, allowing us to see a normal gay relationship and how love is love, it’s the same thing no matter who its between.
Soap: No list like this could be complete without considering Soap. Although often criticized for conforming to gay stereotypes, the 1970s parody of soap operas was the first prime time show to feature an openly gay character. Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal.
The L Word: A soap opera following the lives of a group of LA lesbians, the L-word was was a 70 episode long soap opera that has subsequently become iconic within queer culture. For the first time lesbian characters were normalised and placed in centre stage, not just in supporting roles.
6 Feet Under:The drama surrounding the Fisher family and their funeral home was one of the first times a main gay character appeared on mainstream television with real substance. He had depth that hadn’t really been seen in gay characters before and his story lines rarely revolved around his sexuality.
These 10 tv shows helped to provide momentum for the LGBT rights movement to demonstrate to the world that being gay is more than just who we love, that people are individuals deserve the same respect and recognition as anyone else.