Queer television characters feature in more than half of the top 20 streaming shows

Queer characters feature in 65 percent of the 20 most-watched streaming series in the UK, according to a report released by Parrot Analytics, from data collected earlier this year.

The company, which measures content consumption and engagement, revealed that Netflix sci-fi drama Star Trek: Discovery was by far the most popular, with viewers tuning in to the show an estimated 5,459,886 times in total. Stranger Things and The Grand Tour occupied second and third place. However, neither of those shows – one of which is factual – includes an LGBTQ character.

In Star Trek: Discovery, Anthony Rapp plays Paul Stamets, a Starfleet Lieutenant Commander who was in a relationship with the now-deceased Wilson Cruz’s Hugh Culber. (Try not to worry – Cruz insists his fictional death doesn’t adhere to the bury your gays trope).

Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz as Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber in Star Trek: Discovery (CBS)

Black Mirror, the Charlie Brooker series that gave us ‘San Junipero’ and forever changed the way we listen to Berlinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth, came in fourth while number five on the list, The Crown, introduced Matthew Goode’s Antony Armstrong-Jones – (commonly known as Lord Snowdon in real life) – as bisexual in its second season.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Mindhunter and The Handmaid’s Tale, which all feature lesbian characters were watched by millions of viewers, as was House of Cards, which has seen anti-hero Frank Underwood have sexual relations with both men and women across its five-season run.

Other titles that appear in the top 20 and include queer characters include Altered Carbon, Stargate OriginsMarvel’s Runaways, Narcos and 13 Reasons Why. Sadly, it’s worth noting that out of the 13 shows mentioned, only Orange is the New Black features an openly transgender character.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in prison drama Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

As part of the same report, Parrot Analytics also state five digital original series of interest and in the UK’s edition The Good Fight, which sees Game of Thrones actor Rose Leslie portray a woman in a same-sex relationship, appears.

Interestingly, 13 out of the top 20 streaming series in the United States include queer characters too, despite its differing line-up. While the US list doesn’t feature titles such as House of Cards, Mindhunter and Stargate Origins, it ranks Grace and Frankie, Sense8 and Everything Sucks! among the nation’s favourites.

It’s evident that LGBTQ representation on the small screen is improving gradually.


Riverdale’s Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) (Netflix)

In 2018, we have seen the introduction of bisexual characters in mainstream shows such as Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and back in 2017, GLAAD released its ‘Where We Are on TV’ report for the year and pointed out that for the first time, it was able to count non-binary and asexual characters.

It also calculated that of the 901 regular characters that appeared in a scripted series this season, 58 (6.4 percent) were known to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. “This is the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the history of this report”, the non-profit organisation enthused. “There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.”

That being said, the statistics surrounding representation are still considered low and television still has a long way to go in terms of improving – particularly when it comes to certain groups who fall under the queer umbrella. In the same write-up, GLAAD also brought attention to the fact that 77 percent of LGBTQ characters were white across broadcast, satellite and streaming platforms. Similarly, most were cisgender.

It also detailed how only 1.8 percent of primetime broadcast characters were disabled and only two were identified as HIV-positive. The 2018 report is expected to look a little better than last year’s… here’s hoping anyway!