Following our discussion yesterday about how liberal Hollywood-produced programming actually is, I wanted to call folks’ attention to this fascinating chart from Nielsen that, though based on data from two seasons ago, breaks out by age group how much of the television we consume is inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters:
It’s encouraging that, between the ages of 12 and 35, about a third of the scripted and reality television Americans are watching take place in worlds where gay people are thoroughly integrated as significant characters, though that number decreases as people get older. It’s one of the core ideas of the gay rights movement that it becomes much more difficult to discriminate against gay people once you know them, and good television, even if it’s not a replacement for actual humans, creates the sense that you know the characters and care for their well-being.
But in the release where Nielsen put out that graph, there are some disconcerting facts that point to regional and class gaps between where that programming is penetrating:
Within the 25-49 age demographic, LGBT-inclusive programs (and its advertisers) were most likely to reach:
College-educated white females
Small white collar households
Budding families (those with 3 or fewer members)
Non-white, professional Millennials without children also tended to watch LGBT-inclusive shows more frequently than primetime in general.
LGBT-Inclusive characters were incorporated into shows that skewed towards Eastern and Pacific viewers and were less watched by Midwesterners. This differential was most pronounced among 18-24 year olds in the Midwest, especially when compared to 18-24 year olds in other regions of the U.S.
It makes sense that people who were already liberal in their views on gay rights issues and dedicated to making socially conscious media consumption decisions would be attracted to programming that reinforced their views. But it would also be interesting to see if that programming accelerated or intensified the commitment of those viewers’ to gay rights or their sense that gay families were normal, and if the slower penetration of LGBT-inclusive programming in other kinds of households and other regions had any impact on how quickly perception of gay people changed in those areas.