Gay in a straight, straight TV world…

On this Mardi Gras weekend, how is Aussie TV faring with diversity? It's on the improve.


On this Mardi Gras weekend, gay writers, performers and producers have shared their thoughts on gay representation on Australian television.

In an excellent article for News Corp, Shannon Molloy speaks to writers Sarah Walker and Michael Lucas, director Jet Wilkinson, producer David Sale and director / producer Tony Ayres.

Ayres nods to early casting in The Block and Australian Idol as bold, brave casting more than a decade ago.

“They just show you the world,” he says. “It’s a sample of the community, what you might see walking down the street. I think the rest of TV could do that.”

In the US, Modern Family, features same-sex parents with a child among its core characters.

“And in situations like that, being gay doesn’t mean being ‘other’. It’s part of the broad story,” he says.

“I think the time is nigh for gay characters to be mainstream characters, when sexuality is just part of the character and not the defining part. I think we’re still catching up a bit.”

Michael Lucas notes House Husbands inclusion of Gyton Grantley as Kane “hasn’t scared viewers away.”

Writer Sarah Walker recalls working on a mainstream drama when she wrote a same-sex relationship into the script. When it aired, a storm of controversy erupted and “everyone at the network freaked out”.

“I was told there was to be no mention of gays and lesbians on the show — no references at all.”

That show would most likely be Home and Away which Walker and the controversy when policewoman Charlie Buckton played by Esther Anderson fell in love with Joey Collins, played by Kate Bell. The network famously cut a gay kiss. Ironically it was actually News Corp that enflamed the situation with volatile articles before episodes had even aired, giving Seven cold feet.

There is however, one angle in the article I disagree with: that there a reluctance to include homosexual characters in mainstream shows.

On the contrary I see it increasing all the time. Off the top of my head: Wentworth, House Husbands, Neighbours, Janet King, Offspring, A Place to Call Home, The Family Law, Please Like Me, The Principal, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, Molly, Glitch, Carlotta and Dance Academy. And that’s without looking back on Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Pacific Drive, Water Rats, GP, Sweat, Raw FM, Breakers, The Secret Life of Us, All Saints, Rush, Love My Way, Satisfaction, The Circuit and of course Number 96.

Then you have and almost every reality show at one stage or another including gay participants, plus documentaries and shows such as Q&A, The Project, The Feed, Insight and breakfast TV which discuss gay issues with regularity.

Shows that don’t have a gay character somewhere in their universe are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb. It’s true that television still leans terribly toward young, good-looking white gay males. Females, seniors, ethnic and disabled gays are lagging behind.

But the key to inclusion is always to avoid tokenism, having sustained, fully-rounded characters where sexuality is but one part of their make-up.

10 Responses

      1. Have weirdly had a bit of Skyhooks stuff hanging around me lately so has been in my mind.

        Kind of started with the Once Upon A Time In Carlton doco that was announced (and not yet shown), then a few other memory things came up, which culminated when I went to RocKwiz Live at the Palais in October last year and Skyhooks did a 3 song reunion with Ross Wilson taking the vocals (then the deluxe CD pack Don’t You Believe What You’ve Seen Or You’ve Heard came out).

  1. All Saints’ gay storyline was good, until Sarah left the show and they turned the character, Charlotte, straight.

    I do give particular credit to Neighbours, though – they have been very keen on embracing LGBTI characters and they put Home and Away to shame, because Neighbours is in an earlier timeslot and still manages to include them. Home and Away has a huge diversity issue and I suspect it will, if it hasn’t already, become a detriment to the show, as viewers start wondering why every single character is white and straight and not of differing ethnicities, with the exception of Ada Nicodemou’s character. The show already has issues with storytelling, in my view – introducing more diverse characters would go some way towards fixing that.

    1. The lady Cop on H&A looks Italian to me, and there is a brother, don’t know his cahacter name, but he was in Dancing with the Stars, that looks at least half Pacific Islander.

  2. Home and Aways lack of any kind of diversity is ridiculous. One look at the UK soaps clearly reflects how far behind we are. To Channel 7s credit though, both their recent mini-series have been about high profile gay men.

  3. Home & Away definitely needs to take a hard look at itself.
    I think A Place to call Home season 2 had the best and most confronting gay storyline. That stuck with me for a while.

  4. Charlie Pickering on The Weekly gave a very good commentary this week about the Safe schools program and bullying. Highlighting that it aimed to educate and create awareness of LGBTIQ issues, not promote the “lifestyle” in schools. And raising the issue of suicide in this group as still too high compared to straight counterparts. Then highlighting Plebiscite on gay marriage would cost even more and yet current views reflect majority are I favour. Very good to raise this issue.

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