Although the entertainment industry in the United States has helped advance a more tolerant and inclusive public perception of sexual minorities, Spanish-language television networks are still marginalizing and misrepresenting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) community in scripted programming.
LGBTQ characters in telenovelas and popular drama series produced in Miami and Latin America are often conceived with pejorative features, and presented through the prism of prejudices and myths commonly accepted in Latin American societies. These programs tend to perpetuate well-known stigmas and clichés associated with homosexuality.
Last year, GLAAD, the media advocacy organization, analyzed all characters on prime time, scripted programs that broadcast between July 2016 and June 2017 on the three biggest networks available nationwide for U.S. Hispanic viewers: Univision, Telemundo and UniMás.
The study, titled “Still Invisible,” presents disheartening statistics, concluding that only 19 (3 percent) of the 698 characters identified as LGBTQ.
In the few soap operas where they did appear, gays and lesbians were depicted in a caricature-like manner — men overly effeminate; women as being more stereotypically masculine. Some of them hid their sexual orientation in the plots out of shame and guilt; others were primarily used as sidekicks or comic relief. They were all playing supporting roles, at best.
Furthermore, “disproportionately, writers used bisexuality as a tool with which to ramp up the sexual content on screen rather than portraying bisexuality as a legitimate orientation”, concluded the bilingual GLAAD report, which includes brief descriptions of each LGBTQ character and their roles in the scripts.
Based on that study, el Nuevo Herald produced this video, both in English and Spanish, containing examples of this worrisome trend in Spanish-language media that can lead to ridicule and to violence in the Latino community, where machismo is strongly embedded, gay rights advocated warn.
“Lack of inclusion or characters that are flatly stereotypical or used only for laughs, can have a damaging effect on those watching, both LGBTQ and otherwise,” GLAAD’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis wrote in the report’s introduction.
To spark conversation or demand change, GLAAD also launched a bilingual petition and campaign using the hashtag #inclusivescreens and #pantallainclusiva. The advocacy organization partnered with ten Latino LGBTQ artists nationwide to create engaging graphics that make the call for inclusion.