Time and time again LGBT couples on TV shows get mistreated and each time fans are met with the same bullshit excuses from the writers and showrunners behind it all. Most commonly, LGBT fans are ridiculed and made to feel as though they’re overreacting and their emotions aren’t justified.
Rather than acknowledging how their audience feels, writers straw man them and completely miss the point of why LGBT viewers are upset. So why are people upset? Well, there’s a plethora of reasons, but more often than not they’re upset because they aren’t being heard.
For example, one of the biggest arguments TV writers use to back up their poor creative decisions, is “All couples go through hard times, and LGBT couples are no exception.” This, although true, oversimplifies the problem. No one is saying that their favorite gay couple isn’t allowed to go through rough patches in their relationship or that it has to be all unicorns and rainbows all the time; in fact, a lot of people can appreciate some angst and a slow-burn. LGBT viewers, like everyone else, enjoy a good heart-breaking and emotional scene every now and then. Emphasis on good.
However, more often than not, these heart-breaking scenes seemingly come out of nowhere and don’t add to the story at all. It just becomes easier for the show to write off the couple than continue to tell their stories. One of the many down-falls of having 99% straight people in the writers’ room. Maybe if TV networks diversified their cast and crew, it wouldn’t be as difficult to come up with more authentic and genuine stories. It amazes me how many people have to approve certain storylines and how not a single person thought, “Hm, maybe we shouldn’t do this.”
The fact of the matter is, LGBT couples spend the majority of their time apart, unhappy, and fighting for things that straight couples are just handed. Non straight relationships have a hard time simply for just not being straight. And the problem doesn’t stop there. There’s also the added factor that LGBT couples often have the least amount of screen-time in comparison to straight couples. How is it fair that gay couples have twice the romantic problems and only half the screen-time? Not to mention that TV shows usually only have one LGBT couple (two if you’re lucky) and 10+ straight couples.
So, yes, all couples go through hard times, but when a heterosexual couple is on the fence, there are dozens of others to watch in the meantime. Whereas with gay couples, LGBT viewers only have the one. It would be an entirely different story if a TV show was composed of primarily homosexual relationships and your entire LGBT audience wasn’t relying on a single couple for representation, but that isn’t the case, so it isn’t fair to compare the two.
This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that gay people of color have it even harder to find themselves represented on screen. It’s rare for even one of the people in the relationship to be of color let alone both, which is why fans so passionately defend those relationships when they find them.
Trying to find an LGBT couple in TV shows and media is like looking for a needle in a haystack and trying to find an LGBT couple that is also non-white is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. They’re practically non-existent, so if fans of your show are upset about how you’re writing a couple that means so much to them, let them be upset. Listen to their concerns, acknowledge their feedback, and, most importantly, don’t shut them down and respond with straw man arguments like “All couples struggle” and “People can’t be happy all the time.” For the love of God, that isn’t the issue, and if you don’t realize that by now, you’re part of the problem.
Now, of course there are exceptions, and in some cases fans do cross a line and send completely unwarranted hate towards writers, producers, and even cast members. But it isn’t fair to paint all LGBT viewers with the same brush because a handful of them didn’t know how to behave. These people are just so, so tired of being ignored, mistreated, and misrepresented. Does that make it okay to unjustly attack someone online? Of course not. But it can be really frustrating to just feel like you’re screaming into the void because TV networks continuously make the same mistakes over and over again.
So many of the missteps that TV writers make could’ve been so easily avoided had they just listened to their audience with an open mind, as opposed to getting defensive when people aren’t the biggest fan of a storyline. I know this is easier said than done, and hearing that someone didn’t like something you wrote is hurtful no matter how good everyone’s intentions are, but we have to start genuinely listening to one another if we want to see progress. It’s something that has to come from both sides, and if writers, show-runners, and producers would be more willing to hear what their audience has to say, LGBT viewers would be willing to meet half way.
However, until the people behind the scenes are willingly to take some accountability and realize where their viewers are coming from, this is just going to keep happening. LGBT couples are going to continue to be practically non-existent, poorly written, and have little to no screen-time in comparison to their straight counterparts. LGBT fans aren’t asking for perfection, nor would perfection be a realistic way to write a couple anyway, they’re just asking to be heard and treated fairly.
TV networks have come so far and make great strides every year towards equality, but we aren’t there yet and have to keep fighting for the representation that everyone deserves.