You might recall that sometime in 2015, I interviewed Empire’s own Rafael de la Fuente for JUST ADD COLOR. Now, a year later, I’m excited to say that de la Fuente is going to be on a brand new project coming to ABC, When We Rise.
When We Rise, coming to the network in 2017, will be directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) and Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) and written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Pedro, J. Edgar). For those who hated the film Stonewall (and with good reason), When We Rise could be your saving grace, since it’s focusing on the American gay rights movement after the Stonewall Riots. De la Fuente will play Ricardo, who is described as “a character who ends up in a long-term relationship with Cleve [Guy Pearce]”. Mary Louise Parker is also a part of the project; other cast members will be announced in the coming months.
As featured in COLORBLOCK Magazine, February 2016
There’s a lot of diversity in entertainment nowadays. Or is there? To say there’s “lots of diversity” in the media is to at once tell the truth and to lie. While the amount of non-white faces has increased in television and that the biggest movie of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, had a good portion of its cast played by non-white actors, the fight for diversity still wages on, and not just “diversity” in a racial sense. There’s also the fight for LGBT characters and relationships to be shown with as much regularity as straight characters and their relationships.
To get a good look at how LGBT characters and LGBT relationships have fared on the TV and film, let’s take a look at some of the stats GLAAD has compiled between 2012 and 2015.
LGBT TV STATS
Taking a look at the stats from the 2012-2016 GLAAD reports, television has done much better job of showcasing LGBT lives and love than the movies. However, when you take a look at the actual numbers, the truth is that television has done a better job of showcasing the lives of gay white men rather than all members of the LGBT community.
The biggest trend across the reports is that on the whole, gay white men make up half or more than half of the LGBT characters portrayed on television. Meanwhile, lesbian characters specifically usually make up half or less than half of LGBT characters; bisexual characters make up a paltry amount usually in the single-digit or barely double-digit numbers, but still more than transgender characters, who usually comprise about 2% of the LGBT character population.
On the whole, LGBT characters still comprise a small amount of the overall television character landscape. With a usual 96% straight character representation on television, only about 4% is comprised of LGBT characters.
The regularity to which LGBT characters are shown in relationships seems to be increasing, what with shows like Modern Family, Rosewood, Empire, Transparent, How to Get Away with Murder, Orange is the New Black and The 100, among others, showing gay relationships in a wide spectrum of emotion and depth. Overall, it seems television has shied away from the idea that LGBT people are the butts of jokes; increasingly, these characters are finally being portrayed with the same nuance that their straight counterparts have been for given for decades.
However, there’s still lot that needs to be done. Bisexual, transgender, and lesbian relationships still aren’t shown at the rate that gay male relationships are, and if they are shown, they’re typically relationships featuring white individuals. Rosewood, Empire, and How to Get Away with Murder are some of the standouts for their portrayals of non-white or interracial LGBT relationships, featuring LGB and T characters.
|Want to read more about diverse entertainment? Read the February issue of COLOR BLOCK Magazine!|
LGBT FILM STATS
Film, on the other hand, has been lagging behind television. Seriously. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of films featuring LGBT characters is only 51 out of 317. That’s quite staggering. On top of that, the representation has been skewed; much like in television, the focus shifts primarily to gay white men, with lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender characters, not to mention any LGBT person who is also a person of color, are criminally underrepresented.
To go along with that, most LGBT characters are still found in comedies instead of other genres of film. This could be because LGBT characters have historically been reduced to stereotypical farce as a way to “other” them against the straight, normalized characters. However, Tangerine, a film featuring transgender characters played by transgender actors and featuring complex love and friendships (particularly the friendship between Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez’s characters Alexandra and Sin-Dee), has been critically acclaimed. It has also been confirmed that Deadpool will be 20th Century Fox’s first film starring a pansexual character, who is of course, the lead character of the same name. Also, as you’ll read about later on, there’s been an astronomical push to have Finn and Poe Dameron, the two main male characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be in a relationship, as well as have Rey, the main female lead, be asexual and/or aromantic or lesbian.
However, with films like Star Wars (and to a lesser extent, all of the films released from major studios), the conventional worry is that a big player like Disney won’t jeopardize their bottom line with countries like China, who has stringent censorship laws, by having a same-sex relationship. However, if Deadpool rakes in the dough domestically as well as internationally, especially if his sexuality comes into play in the film, it could provide major studios enough leverage to greenlight a same-sex relationship.
The data also shows that the upward momentum in film and TV is still at a snail’s pace. In order for representation to exponentially grow, some studio is going to have to make the plunge. For instance, if it ever decided to listen to the very vocal portion of the fandom about same-sex relationships in film, it could very well be in Disney’s court to be that pioneering studio. If Disney won’t be the first, one of the other big studios will; regardless, after that particular studio steps up to the plate and succeeds, then the others will fall in line. Another way the status quo could change is by more indie films like Tangerine showing it’s possible to create LGBT-based films that are also lucrative investments. Or, change could come as a combination of the two. The downside is that it’s a shame that money has to be tied to a fight for representation at all.
GLAAD “Where on TV” reports for 2013-2015, GLAAD Studio Responsibility Indexes for 2013-2015
Oct. 21st’s episode of Empire, “Be True,” featured Andre trying to get his soul right with his family, himself, and with God ultimately, but one of the other developments of the night was Michael getting with that artist guy and later discovered by Jamal, who was about to tell Michael he could come on tour with him!
I was excited to have the opportunity of talking with Rafael de la Fuente about Michael’s departure from fidelity and what his actions could mean for Jamal and Michael’s future together. We also talked about de la Fuente’s quick first trip to set, working with Jussie Smollett, and his favorite Cookie moment.
The latest Empire episode, “Poor Yorick,” had classic Empire shenanigans, and I do mean “shenanigans.” Hakeem and Jerk Jamal fighting on the set of the awesome Black Panther-in-the-future music video. Lucious and Cookie being lovers at war. Cookie selling out Lucious again after facing the possibility of going to jail again. Andre and Rhonda digging up poor Vernon, only to have Lucious and Thirsty help them out with the process. Vernon’s decrepit body showing up in the Booby Prosecutor’s car. Also: Cookie invoking Sandra Bland as she was being carted away to an interrogation room.
If it’s all standard stuff for Empire, then why have the ratings begun to slip? Since the Season 2 premiere, the ratings have been slipping slowly. Of course, for Empire, a ratings slip is like a billionaire becoming $1000 short. There’s not much to complain about. Or is there? Because even with a billionaire, losing a $1000 a week begins to add up.
Earlier this year, I put out my COLOR recap list, which included lots of things. But I honestly underestimated the sheer amount of recapping I’d have to do this year, coupled with the amount of TV work I do for other companies. (I work many different jobs aside from running this site.) I’ve found myself literally not having a lot of time to do anything except watch TV and write, and I can’t keep this up until January. So here’s the revised list, with reasoning (since I’m sure there are fans of the shows that will get cut from the recap list):
It seems like every Empire react I’ll be making this year will be “Jamal’s a big jerk.” And he is still a jerk in the latest episode, “Fires of Heaven.” Like, I get that Lucious is a the king of jerks. But Lucious seemed like he never had a chance to be anything other than a jerk. His jerkiness seems to come from having to live tough in order to survive. But Jamal? As pampered by money and rejected by his father as he is? He’s going to try to act tough and not speak to Cookie, the only parent who gave a damn about him? Jamal’s made me resort to using curse words!
Empire‘s latest episode, “Without a Country,” left me with some thoughts, thoughts that you probably shared as you watched and live-tweeted. The main thought being that Jamal probably doesn’t know how to run a company.
Empire is just as crazy as we remember it, if not crazier. I don’t know how the writers managed to top themselves from last season, but they did.
Empire’s season two premiere left me for a loop! It’s currently in my rewatch queue so I can finally get my recap up on the site (I’m sure you’re wondering what I thought about Cookie being in an ape suit in a cage, why Anika was inexplicably called “Anita,” and “Anita’s” subsequent twerk-session with Mimi.) But until then, I’ve got something special! A quiz! If you’ve wanted to see who you’ be if you were an artist signed to Empire Records, here’s your chance.