From Modern Family to Glee: How TV advanced gay rights

Television has played a critical role in shaping a positive perception of the LGBT community worldwide. Tom Brook reports on how the small screen has made a big impact.

In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres made history when she declared “I’m gay” on her primetime sitcom Ellen. Ratings for the series declined in the months thereafter, making some believe that television wasn’t ready to feature LGBT characters. But just a year later in 1998, Will & Grace premiered on US network NBC. The show featured gay characters prominently for eight seasons, leading US Vice President Joe Biden to remark in 2012: “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anybody’s ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.”

Many other series to feature positive depictions of gay characters have followed, including Six Feet Under, Glee, The Good Wife, Orange Is the New Black and Modern Family, which begins its sixth season on US television on 24 September.

Tom Brook reports on how television has been at the vanguard of changing perceptions of gay people – especially in the US where the proliferation of gay and lesbian TV characters has arguably created a climate more receptive to the idea of gay marriage.

Produced by Susan Farkas

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