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I began my research with a really broad topic in mind.

I had not decided
which form(s) of media I would be focusing on or which minority group(s) I would be
researching. I realized fairly quickly that most research had been conducted on
media representation as it pertains to racial minorities and the LGBT+ community.
Since then I have been focusing on the underrepresentation of LGBT+ characters on
TV and in films. By the end of this week I hope to begin to discover the specific
effects the underrepresentation and misrepresentation gay characters affects the
gay community.
Currently my essential question is “how does media portrayal in terms
of both underrepresentation and misrepresentation of LGBT+ characters affect self-
perception and self-hate within the gay community?”
It seems to be acknowledged among researchers looking at this topic that
there is a major lack of representation of LGBT+ characters. This is true across TV
shows, major movie productions, and small “art house” studio productions. Within
LGBT+ characters there is also a lack of representation in terms of race and
characters living with a disability. Although most LGBT+ characters are white gay
men the LGBT+ community includes lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, etc.
This means there is underrepresentation even within the LGBT+ community.
Aside from LGBT+ characters there is major underrepresentation and
stereotypical portrayals of certain races (mainly Black, Latino/a, Asian, and Native
American).
A few rudimentary statistics that prove underrepresentation are as follows:
only 4% of characters on primetime scripted TV shows are LGBT+, only 33% of
LGBT+ primetime characters were people of color, 17.5% of major studio releases
feature LGBT+ characters, 73% of LGBT+ characters in major motion pictures have
less than 10 minutes onscreen (meaning only 4.7% of major studio releases feature
LGBT+ characters with more than 10 minutes onscreen). Concepts such as homo-
negativism, heterosexism, internalized homophobia, and minority stress will be
relevant to my capstone as well. Lastly, there are a few tests that both validate and
quantitatively assess internalized homophobia (Martin and Dean Test and the
Nungesser Homosexuality Attitudes Instrument).
A question I still have not been able to get a straight answer for is the effect
this all has on members of the LGBT+ community. I found one source detailing
internalized homophobia but not strictly in relation to media representation. What I
do know is that internalized homophobia is caused in part by our heteronormative
society. And that internalized homophobia is an academically backed psychological
phenomena that is recognized among most psychiatrists. There is also statistically
significant evidence that suggests internalized homophobia is related to an increase
in self-damaging behaviors such as drug use, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and
suicidal ideation and/or actions. There is, at least to me, a definite connection
between the portrayal of LGBT+ characters in the media and the reinforcement of a
heteronormative society.
Equally troubling is how when LGBT+ characters are in TV shows or movies
they many times serve as background (and therefore insignificant) characters, their
sexuality or gender identity is treated as comedy, or are displayed in an overly-
negative light. This would likely contribute to internalized homophobia among
LGBT+ people. I would like to find much more research on the effects of
underrepresentation, now that I have proven that the LGBT+ community is, in fact,
underrepresented in the media.
I may start looking into the idea of criminalizing hater because it has come up
in my research but only tangentially for the moment (unless I find something very
compelling and related to where I currently see my research heading).