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The Importance of Queer Representation in Media

two men standing next to each other

We’ve all seen the arguments against queer representation in all kinds of media. Most of these arguments are from people that spend their time arguing on Facebook, but these comments can be damaging to progress that has been made in queer representation. In this blog post, I’m going to share some insight into the importance of queer representation by responding to some arguments I’ve seen online.

1. “Why are they shoving this down our throats?”

If this is your argument against seeing two queer people hold hands or kiss in a movie, my counter argument is this: What part of having one queer couple in a popular movie where the main representation is a straight couple is the queer community “shoving it down your throat”? The answer is that it isn’t. The queer community has fought for years to see our identities represented appropriately in the media. Older queer adults grew up watching movies or TV shows that were full of straight couples getting a happy ending with no argument against it, but it’s a problem for queer people?

2. “This isn’t appropriate for a child to see!”

Okay, sure. If the movie or show has a ten minute sexual scene, your kid shouldn’t be watching it – but usually this argument pops up at the first sign of a queer couple sharing one on-screen kiss or holding hands. If your child is old enough to watch a straight couple kiss on screen or hold hands, they’re old enough to see a queer couple do the same. If your issue is that you don’t know how to explain queer identities to your children, I encourage you to use the following script: “You know how some of the movies you watch involve a prince and a princess kissing at the end? This movie has a prince kissing another prince or a princess kissing another princess.” I guarantee that they’ll understand and if they don’t, there are multiple resources online to help explain this to your child.

3. “They’re taking over our media/asking for too much”

This one is really interesting to me given the amount of TV shows and movies that actually showcase queer couples in a positive light. I’m in my late 20’s and I remember when it was a huge deal to have a single queer character on a TV show or movie (excluding shows like The L Word or Queer as Folk – which come with their own issues). When the queer community did get that representation in popular media, it was usually full of tropes that were detrimental to the community.

family watching tv together

Tropes in shows including Bury Your Gays (the trope where the queer character in a show doesn’t get a happy ending when everyone else does – and it usually happens right after the character was given an ounce of happiness) send a message to younger queer kids that being queer is a death sentence. Individuals in the queer community that didn’t grow up with positive queer representation in the media know the struggle of waiting for a character to die in the most ridiculous or horrific way. If you’re wondering what TV shows have utilized this trope, here are a couple from the last few years in popular network TV shows:

  • Killing Eve

  • Supernatural

  • Orange Is The New Black

  • Jane The Virgin

  • The 100

  • The Magicians

  • Degrassi

  • Chicago Fire

  • The Walking Dead

All of these shows are pretty recent and feature queer characters that die in (usually) horrific ways for seemingly no reason. Compare this to the myriad of seemingly straight characters that survive when it doesn’t make sense and you’ll understand why this argument is particularly amusing.

4. “It doesn’t make sense”

You’re watching a show about mythical creatures and there is a queer character existing. I think you can figure this one out yourself.

My reason for writing this blog is to point out that arguing against queer representation in the media creates an even bigger problem. If queer characters aren’t allowed to exist in movies or TV shows, it sends a message that queer people don’t exist or don’t deserve to see themselves in their favorite show. A lot of people wind down at the end of a stressful day by watching TV and the feeling of relating to a character is important for people. For some queer adolescents, the only time they feel like they’re connected to the queer community is by existing in online spaces or watching TV shows.

rainbow flags

These shows and movies also address some issues in the queer community that otherwise go unnoticed. If a queer teenager is struggling to come out to their family, watching a show that has an arc of a character recognizing their queer identity and coming out can help them figure out what to say. It’s essential for queer people to see themselves represented in the media they consume in order to send the message that it won’t always be difficult for them. Having positive representation creates a space for queer teenagers (and also adults) to work through their feelings about being queer.

If you’re struggling with your identity and need a therapist that understands your struggle, please reach out to us today!

photo of the author

Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats.

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