The Entertainment Media’s Role in Acceptance of LGBTQ People

The entertainment media’s representation of LGBTQ people has changed greatly over the years, which may be a reason why young adults are so much more supportive of LGBTQ rights than past generations.

When the baby-boomer generation was growing up, there were little to no positive representations of LGBTQ people in the entertainment media.  My father, who grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s said that there were almost no LGBTQ characters in the entertainment media that he could recall. And, support for same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup poll, is much lower among his age group to this day than among Generation X people, Millennial Generation people, and the newest generation of young people (McCarthy  That is likely because people who grew up in my father’s era only knew about what they heard about LGBTQ people from places outside the media-churches, etc.-which would have been largely negative representations.  So, one can see that the lack of positive representation of LGBTQ people in the media in the 1960s and early 1970s is probably a cause of less support for LGBTQ persons among baby-boomers.

Things started changing in the entertainment media’s representation of homosexuality in the late 1970s.  The landmark show, Soap, portrayed an openly gay character, named Jodie, on TV.  While Jodie did conform to lots of gay stereotypes-interest in fashion, effeminate nature, etc,-and was often simply a source of humor for the audience’s amusement-he still had depth.  There is one episode where Jodie comes out to his brother and insists that if his brother doesn’t still love him as an openly gay man, he never did.  Even with the stereotypes, Soap presented an openly gay character with depth that would challenge the minds of many viewers on their stereotypes about the shallowness of gay people and provide a relatively positive image of an openly gay person.  Still, one can see, since the character was a rare representation of an LGBTQ person at the time, Generation Xers that grew up with this image will be more supportive of LGBTQ persons than baby boomers (McCarthy, but less supportive than Millennials and the newest generation of young people (McCarthy

In the 1990s and 2000s, when Millennials were growing up, the number of LGBTQ persons in the media increased and their representations were more positive.  Shows like Will and Grace, Queer Eye, and Ellen portrayed LGBTQ persons as amiable, successful, contributing in positive ways to society, and having depth in their relationships.  Indeed, a recent Pepperdine study identified this increase in positive representations of LGBTQ persons in the media is correlated with increased “support” for LGBTQ persons (Gonta, et al p. 22).  One might imagine that the depth of their relationships is especially key here as it fights the misconception that LGBTQ relationships are just about sex and LGBTQ persons don’t really love each other.  Additionally, exposure LGBTQ persons in the media has helped normalize images of LGBTQ persons holding hands, kissing, and hugging in public, amongst young adults.  One can see where with these “positive representations” of LGBTQ persons in the media, millennials would be more supportive of LGBTQ persons than previous generations (Gonta, et al p. 22).

However, for all of their positive attributes, many LGBTQ characters in the 1990s and 2000s still conformed to stereotypes.  Although popular and groundbreaking, Ellen, Queer Eye, and Will and Grace all portrayed stereotypes of LGBTQ persons on their shows.  Jack on Will and Grace was shallow and sexually promiscuous, and the men on Queer Eye were largely still very effeminate and conformed to stereotypes such as the gay male interest in fashion.  This conformation to stereotypes leads to misconceptions about the LGBTQ community at large: it makes people think that LGBTQ persons are more sexually promiscuous, shallow, and do not conform to gender norms.  One can see that the misconceptions these stereotypical representations create could easily be a reason why Millennials are not as supportive of LGBTQ persons as the newest generation (Gonta, et al p. 22).

Recent representations of LGBTQ persons in the entertainment media have been much more positive than their ancestors.  A documentary about transgender people, called Born to Be, was recently showed by the Human Rights Campaign.  The documentary compassionately showed the struggles of transgender people, identified the obstacles they face, and portrayed them not as radical fringe people, but as normal Americans.  This positive representation of the trans community helps clear up misconceptions about trans people and makes seeing them in public more normal.  The newest generation’s early exposure to positive representations in the media of LGBTQ persons could be why the youngest Americans are the most supportive of LGBTQ persons (Gonta et al, p. 22).

Representations of LGBTQ persons in entertainment media have evolved in a positive direction over the years, and this is probably a major reason why young people are so much more supportive of LGBTQ persons than past generations.

Works Cited

Gonta, et al. “Changing Media and Changing Minds: Media Exposure and Viewer Attitudes                     Toward Homosexuality.” Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research. Vol. 5, P. 21     -34.

McCarthy, Justin. “US Support for Gay Marriage Stable, at 63%.” Gallup. 2019.

Upcoming Meeting Saturday 5/10/20

Friends of Community Media will hold its monthly meeting of the second Saturday of the month at 2:00 PM Saturday, 5/10/20 via Zoom video conferencing. Minutes from the previous meeting are available. To join in if you did not get the email, contact Spencer Graves our secretary who has set it up. He will provide a password. Some agenda items include (additions are welcome):

* FCM Mission:

* Minutes of the last meeting? .

* Treasurer Report:

Website Committee:

vents Committee:Craig regarding videoconference for the Media & Religion speaker for our canceled May 17?

Launching a new local nonprofit news organization to work with KKFI: Spencer is still looking for a journalist to collaborate with us. He is talking about contacting hyperlocal news sites like

● John Sharp and the Martin City Telegraph (

● The Shawnee Mission Post (

● The Midtown KC Post (

● Other contacts via LION(Local Independent Online News) Publishers (

However, Spencer hasn’t created time to work on this recently.NEW BUSINESS:· Co-sponsoring candidate fora with and / or local chapters of the League of Women Voters?·

Carrying out FCMannual meeting and board election. How?

Battle in Media of Liberty and Freedom

In the past, liberals had control over the terms “liberty” and “freedom.”  Now, there is a war going on between liberals and conservatives in the media over the uses of the terms “liberty” and “freedom.”  The group that is better able to control the usage of those important American ideas will have an easier time getting legislation passed and electing candidates.

In past decades, the terms “liberty” and “freedom” have been used in the media to justify liberal causes.  George Lakoff, author of Whose Freedom?, and numerous other books on political discourse, writes that, in past decades, freedom meant “expanding civil rights, voting rights, tolerance” and numerous other things (Lakoff p. 73).  Using terms such as “freedom to vote” was a useful way for liberals to invoke the term freedom to justify legislation, such as the Voting Rights Act, because it helps associate such legislation with what Lakoff calls “our most important idea” (Lakoff p. 1).  Freedom, in those days, primarily helped liberal candidates and causes in this way.

One example of how conservatives are redefining freedom in the media to their advantage is in the use of the terms religious liberty and religious freedom to rally support for their candidates.  In a radio appearance last year, Karen and Charlotte Pence, wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, respectively, used the terms “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” five times in less than three minutes to justify her husband’s anti-LGBTQ views (“Karen Pence…”  She also invoked America’s history of people coming to this country for religious liberty and freedom to defend her husband against the attacks of openly-gay Mayor Pete Buttigeig (“Karen Pence…”  This use of language may rally sympathy amongst social moderates for Pence because it casts him as someone who is having his freedoms oppressed by Mayor Pete Buttigeig, our current court system, and liberal legislation.  In this sense, it makes Pence seem like the victim of discrimination, not Buttigeig.  It also helps rally support for the Trump/Pence ticket by invoking our nation’s history, founding fathers, and shared values.  In this way, Karen and Charlotte Pence helped their husband’s re-election cause by redefining freedom.

The terms religious liberty and religious freedom are also being used to push socially conservative legislation.  In 2016, Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN), and the conservative Tennessee state legislature, used the term “religious freedom” in discussions with the media to justify legislation that would allow counselors and therapists to deny care to anyone who disagreed with their “sincerely held beliefs” (Margolin  The legislation passed and was signed into law, despite the fact that the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Tennessee Counseling Association, American Counseling Association, and American Association for Suicide Prevention all opposed it on the grounds that it would allow therapists to discriminate against LGBTQ persons, especially in rural areas where there are few counseling/therapy options available (Margolin  If this legislation had been framed as a way to discriminate against LGBTQ people by its creators, it would have been much less popular, and likely would not have passed.  However, by using the term “religious freedom,” the governor and state legislature made it sound as though anti-LGBTQ counselors were the victims of discrimination and oppression, not LGBTQ people.  This created sympathy.  Thus, by using the term “religious freedom,” Tennessee got a strongly anti-LGBTQ bill piece of legislation passed.

Liberals have also used the terms “liberty” and “freedom” with some success in the battle over same-sex marriage.  LGBTQ rights groups have been using the term “freedom to marry” for quite some time to establish support for same-sex marriage (“Winning the Freedom to Marry Nationwide”  The idea behind this term is that everyone should have the right to marry who they love, regardless of their gender. This creates sympathy for LGBTQ persons by casting them as the ones who are having their freedom taken away by gay-marriage bans, not conservatives.  Using this term in press releases and other forms of communication through the media helped liberal groups establish more support for same-sex marriage by associating America’s most important idea with their cause. 

Liberals and conservatives are battling over the usage of the terms “liberty” and “freedom” in the media.  The group that is able to better harness the power of these important ideas will be able to get their candidates elected and rally support for their legislative policies.

Works Cited

“Karen Pence…” Fox News. 2019.

Lakoff, George.  Whose Freedom?. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2006.

Margolin, Emma. “Tennessee Enacts ‘Religious Freedom’ Measure.” MSNBC.

“Winning the Freedom to Marry Nationwide.” Freedom to Marry. 2015.