GLAAD Report Confirms Cancellations Are Killing The Vibe For LGBTQ+ TV Characters

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but a lot of LGBTQ+ inclusive programming has been cancelled lately, much of it after only a single season in the sun. Cancel-happy streaming networks have gotten into the habit of axing the majority of their series after one or two seasons, leaving many of our most beloved LGBTQ+ stories adrift on a vast ocean of despair, sinking ever-closer to the earth’s core while fan-funded billboards and airplane banners fly desperately overhead. GLAAD’s 2022-2023 “Where We Are On TV” Report, released today and covering series that premiered or will premier a season between June 1, 2022, and May 31, 2023, dedicates a solid chunk of its PDF to highlighting this alarming trend.

GLAAD found that within this period, there have already been 54 LGBTQ-inclusive series cancellations, which alone will eliminate 140 LGBTQ+ characters from their tally, or 24% of all characters GLAAD counted. They also noted the elimination of 35 LGBTQ characters who we’ll never see again ’cause their show was an anthology or miniseries.

Also, it appears final edits of this report went through before Disney+ cancelled Willow and before it was leaked that Prime Video is possibly planning to provide us with a meager four-episode final season for A League of Their Own (a decision we’re still praying isn’t final). If we add ALOTO to their tally, that’s 11 more regular/recurring characters on the chopping block. If The L Word Generation Q doesn’t get a fourth season pick-up, we’ll lose an additional 15. Although Freevee’s offerings weren’t counted in GLAAD’s tallys, I just want to add that if we loose High School, we’ll be losing another big queer TV show. All of those losses will be of LGBTQ+ women and trans characters specifically. “Streaming services debuting shows with large ensemble LGBTQ casts and then quickly canceling those shows is a consistent issue across all platforms,” GLAAD points out, noting that there were 11 LGBTQ+ characters on Peacock’s cancelled Queer As Folk reboot alone.

The gender breakdown of characters on canceled series is similar to the gender breakdown of characters overall, but those numbers would obviously shift significantly if any of the aforementioned cancellations occur. Still, it was interesting for me, a person who does not pay tons of attention to gay men on TV, that so many of their shows have also been hit with cancellations.

While several broadcast shows are also counted amongst the cancellations, these are mostly shows that had reached their natural death after relatively long lives amid this wretched earth, for example Riverdale, A Million Little Things and New Amsterdam. Monarch is one of the few single-season network cancellations named in the report, but the thing about Monarch is that it was very bad.

GLAAD highlights streaming and premium cable’s cancellations as being related to those formats’ shifts towards shorter seasons and binge-viewing, leading to more and more series getting canceled after one or two seasons. “Many of the series getting cut are LGBTQ inclusive programs,” GLAAD writes in their report, “leaving a large demographic of viewers constantly searching for new programs only for them to ultimately be canceled before a satisfying conclusion.” In August 2020 — even before the past two years of rampant cancellation sprees — The Ringer wrote that the average length of streaming TV series was shrinking to lasting between three or four seasons, “a development that’s changing television as a whole.”

As any passionate binge-viewer of concluded programs can attest, a series that only managed one or two seasons often holds little appeal in the archives as well, especially when those seasons only consisted of 6-8 episodes to begin with. You could binge the entirety of Hulu’s Reboot in less time than it takes to watch Avatar: Way of Water. Last week, Variety reported that “frequent TV show cancellations are starting to change how U.S. viewers decide what to watch,” according to an internal survey that found a quarter of U.S adults wait for the streaming originals’ finale before starting, “citing fears over the show’s potential cancellation with an unresolved ending (27%) or because they do not want to wait for the next season after a cliffhanger (24%).” 46% of Americans sometimes or always wait for a series finale before they even begin to binge it.

HBO Max has also debuted an alarming practice of eliminating many cancelled shows from its platform altogether, making LGBTQ+-inclusive programming like Genera+tion, Love Life, Westworld and 12 Dates of Christmas actually impossible to find. (Westworld, at least, is being offloaded to a third-party free ad-supported streaming service, TBD.)

GLAAD recommends to networks that the best way to offset the loss of these stories is to “prioritize green-lighting new series with LGBTQ characters, as well as providing existing series a full marketing budget and plan comparable to other titles of their same genres.” I would add to that that they also market to LGBTQ+ audiences — especially directly to their niche! I’m so tired of seeing shows aimed at LGBTQ+ women or trans people run ads with gay male websites or mainstream publications while eschewing this specific website altogether, and then throwing up their hands when the show doesn’t do the numbers they’d hoped for. Even with so many cancellations, the field is crowded, and one review often gets missed by the average Autostraddle reader — whereas a thorough ad campaign would not.

Overall, GLAAD found some promising trends: like that over half of all characters counted are people of color and that there are more asexual characters than ever. But LGBTQ+ characters were also down overall by 6% from last year’s report.

You can read GLAAD’s entire Where We Are On TV Report here.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3179 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Jon Kasdan, one of the writers and executive producers for Willow has said that it’s “on hiatus, rather than outright canceled” and that he fully expects it to return at some point

  2. I would never have watched ALOTO if not for this website because I didn’t grow up aware of the movie. And as someone with an (ever decreasing) attention span, I actually rely on this website to sift through the fodder and tell me about the good stuff

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