The main portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community in the media is often white, cisgender, gay men. The LGBTQ+ community has a diverse group of people who are often underrepresented and inaccurately portrayed. To break the many stigmas surrounding LGBTQ+ people, the media needs to accurately represent a variety of members; this includes many sexualities and gender identities, people of colour, people of different religions, disabled people, etcetera.
Mrs. Sheri Thomasen, a teacher at Riverside Secondary and advocate of the LGBTQ+ club, says it’s important for LGBTQ+ people to be represented in the media. “Everyone likes to be positively represented in the media. The media is a huge part of our lives, so it needs to be a good influence,” Thomasen said.
LGBTQ+ characters are frequently very stereotypical, which in turn means they are unrelatable to most people. Showing these stereotypes in the media also allows outsiders to form a false idea of what the community is like. This can lead to prejudice against LGBTQ+ people. Legally Blonde is an example of harmful LGBTQ+ stereotypes. A gay character in the movie, Enrique, is shown as the flamboyant gay man stereotype. He has a broad knowledge of fashion, dresses and acts flamboyantly, and is hyper sexualized in the movie. He is a caricature.
Movies like Love, Simon are a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean that the community is getting the recognition they deserve. Although LGBTQ+ people are more represented than they were 10 years ago, improvement is still needed.
LGBTQ+ youth especially need better representation in the media. Often, there aren’t any role models for youth to look up to regarding sexuality and gender. Thomasen said there should be more coming of age movies for LGBTQ+ youth. “There are so many coming of age movies for youth who aren’t LGBTQ+, but if you are, you have different life experiences and obstacles that other people may not have,” said Thomasen.
Recently, the former writer for the children’s show Sesame Street said he based Bert and Ernie off him and his male partner. Sesame Street then denied the statement saying that Bert and Ernie are best friends. Frank Oz, one of the creators of the show, also gave his opinion on the matter. “They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness,” said Oz.
Thomasen says exposing children to LGBTQ+ people and relationships will help ‘normalize’ it. “The earlier we show children that being LGBTQ+ is ‘normal’, the better,” Thomasen said.
Thomasen says when it comes to the media, it’s all about money. “The media wants to make money, so they try to appeal to the largest audience,” said Thomasen. LGBTQ+ people are seen as a ‘minority group,’ so media is often directed strictly at cisgender heterosexuals without accounting for people who aren’t cisgender or heterosexual. Thomasen says there should be more movies and media for LGBTQ+ people.
“It’s people’s choice if they want to see them, but at least the movies will be there. If you’re LGBTQ+, then you can watch them and see yourself positively represented,” said Thomasen. “If you don’t want to watch them, then don’t. No one is forcing you.”