The portrayal of LGBT characters in mainstream media still has some way to go...
Problem 1: Unrealistic LGBT Portrayal
Despite the opportunity to build accurate character portrayal, archaic and unrealistic LGBT characters pervade mass media. Such characters are built for a single purpose and are often driven by the plot, rather than driving the plot themselves; to this end, LGBT characters are often consigned to the status of supporting character, at best, to a heterosexual lead. Such characters often represent predictable tropes that fall into stifling, thoughtless categories.
The first role for most LGBT characters, particularly for those in hetero-driven comedies, is that of comedic relief. That is, their LGBT status in itself something to laugh at, to mock, or to generally deride in some fashion. The original Will & Grace was notorious for exploiting its gay characters, suggesting LGBT lifestyle is one supported by a laugh track. In movies, gay male characters are portrayed as de-masculine, becoming the object of comedic subplots.
For example, Todd Cleary (Wedding Crashers) is mopey and useless, with 'He's a homo,' being the punchline in multiple dialogues; to-be trans character Loretta (Life of Brian) is bumbling and confused; Mr Chow (The Hangover) is flamboyant and never taken seriously despite actual threats to the protagonists. This is not a comprehensive list, merely examples to prove a point that movies appear to portray: in popular media, men who deviate from the hetero-norm are mocked and sidelined, and never develop outside of their comedic sidekick status.
Another over-used trope for LGBT characters is that of over-sexualised decoration.
LGBT characters’ sexualities are often exaggerated. Hyper-sexualised lesbian characters are written to titillate the male viewer: Pussy Galore from Goldfinger and Lucille from Sin City, for example, are all but defined by their sexual allure. In these examples, lesbians are written to provide exoticism to a character in order to increase male interest, and character development outside of their status as ‘exotic, attractive lesbian’ is practically nil. For gay male characters, hyper-sexuality serves more as an offshoot of the comedic sidekick routine, where gay sexualities are overblown for comedic value.
From True Blood, Lafayette Reynolds’s overblown, hyper-feminine mannerisms are written for comedic effect from the Fable series of video games, Reaver’s sexual exaggerated sexual appetite is written simply for mockery.
In themselves, sexual appetites and personal appearance are not wrong, but nor are they factors that should dictate a person’s or character’s development.
When gay or lesbian sexualities are exaggerated to such a degree, LGBT characters are rarely allowed to develop in a wider context.