The 2016-2017 television year was the best in GLAAD’s report history with a 4.8 percent representation (43 characters, in real terms) across 895 series regulars.
To celebrate the leap in representation, we’re taking a look at our favourite queer characters from the 2016-2017 broadcast year.
A note: This list is in no particular order, though feel free to disagree/add your own faves in the comment section below.
1. Ilana, Broad City
Broad City is a colour-soaked, weed-inspired gem of a show, showcasing rambling dialogue, an episodic structure, and the platonic love affair between Ilana and her best friend, Abi.
Though season four sees Ilana’s foray into a serious relationship with the inimitable Lincoln, her queerness was still front and center in the show. In an earlier episode, a sex-depressed Ilana is invited to a threesome with a beautiful couple – but she has to bail because she’s struggling with her sex drive in the wake of Trump’s America.
In a bold scene, Ilana finally orgasms to a mental slideshow of strong women – and if that isn’t a celebration of queerness and femininity, we don’t know what is.
2. Alex Danvers, Supergirl
Supergirl is an imperfect show that’s buoyed by great characters. (Except Mon-El, who, despite Chris Wood’s valiant efforts, is a dull shell of a person.)
It’s a show that’s often better than the sum of its parts. A particular highlight was Alex’s coming out story which was painted far more subtlety than Supergirl’s standard fare, pairing her with the dynamic Detective Maggie Sawyer. Their chemistry was refreshing and the story was honest, hitting done-before-beats with enough mirth to make it work.
Unfortunately, Floriana Lima left the show which led to a hasty but respectful end for everyone’s favourite cop couple.
(Aside: On the back of the recent CW crossover, we’d happily take a White Canary reprieve – as lovers or as bros.)
3. Kat Edison, The Bold Type
The Bold Type was our biggest surprise of the TV calendar. Early trailers suggested Sex and the City-lite, with a core cast of well-off city kids.
Instead, TBT quickly positioned itself as a whip-smart depiction of female friendship that was more than willing to fairly consider tough topics like cancer and rape.
A further surprise was Kat Edison, a rich-kid social media manager. At turns brash and vulnerable, Kat truly came into her own when she embarked on a slow-burn relationship with Amina, an out lesbian photographer and Muslim from the other side of the world.
Much feels ensued, with Kat risking her steady life to take a dive with Amina.
4. Waverly Earp, Wynonna Earp
Waverly is the sister of the titular Wynonna in the sci-fi slash paranormal slash western thriller. A ray of sunshine in a demon-infested town, Waverly met and fell for Nicole Haught halfway through season one.
While season one was good, season two was excellent – and our darling Waverly was in the midst of it all, allowing Dominique Provost-Chalkley to show off a multitude of skills including singing and cheerleading.
At Outcast HQ, we’d go so far as to say that Wynonna Earp is the predecessor Buffy fans have been waiting for.
5. Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black
RIP, Orphan Black. Though your plot sometimes wobbled, you were a beautiful realisation of complex womanhood.
While Helena will always be our favourite of the core cast, Cosima was a close second with her sizzling chemistry with turncoat Delphine, her intelligence, and ineffable charm.
6. Denise, Master of None
Master of None is a critically-acclaimed comedy from Aziz Ansari. Like many small-place comedies, its ratings aren’t particularly good.
More than anything, it’s a character study of its talented cast. In its 2017 Thanksgiving episode, MoN took a detour from its plot to pivot to supporting character, Denise, via her decades-spanning coming out story.
It’s gorgeously orchestrated – and one of the few coming out stories featuring a black character. Beyond her sexuality, though, Denise’s character is fully realised: she’s insightful and dry with a sardonic sense of humour. She also looks really good in a snapback, which: always relevant.
7. Piper, Orange is the New Black
Is she criminally annoying? Yes. Is she that relevant to the plot anymore? No. Is she even the best queer character on OITNB? Absolutely not. (Nicky, represent!)
But Piper was the character who broke the equinox as the first of the mainstream, unreliable, often unlikable female lead characters. Plus, she is queer af, with much of her arc revolving around sometimes-love interest, sometimes-enemy Alex.
8. Oflgen, The Handmaid’s Tale
Who knew Alexis Bledel can act so well? At first, Ofglen seemed to be a subordinate to the system, though she quickly came to the fore as a power of resistance.
In a world where being queer is outlawed, Ofglen’s suffering is huge: raped as part of the ‘system’, genitally mutilated, and later forced to watch her lover be hung. Hers was a harrowing story of grief and oppression, expertly acted by the former Gilmore girl.
9. Niska, Humans
Season one of Humans was a runaway hit for Channel 4, debuting on American TV on AMC. Earning C4’s highest viewership in years, the sci-fi tells the story of a family of synthetic/robot humans and their quest for survival in a world that sees synths as manual labourers/sex toys/etc. without consciousness.
One of the breakout characters is Niska, a volatile synthetic who’d suffered years of abuse, first at the hands of her creator father and then as an enslaved sex worker.
Season one charted Niska’s break for freedom while season two placed her squarely at the core question of the show: what makes something human? Niska’s capacity to feel things, the show argued, was proof of her conciousness – and prove it she did as Niska fell in love with the gorgeous Astrid, who she met while on the run in Berlin.
A tender love story set against a vicious world, Niska and Astrid remain one of our absolute favourite TV relationships in the last year – and we hope to see much more of them in season three, which is set a year after the dawn of synth consciousness and due to release in 2018.
10. Clarke, The 100
We’re still not over Lexa’s death, nor will we ever be. She was our number one and we haven’t shipped anything so hard since Skins told a beautiful coming out story with Naomi and Emily.
However, as many fans expected, season four didn’t rush a Clarke and Bellamy union, instead giving Clarke space to grieve and form a fuck-buddy friendship with grounder, Niylah.
11. Annalise Keating, How T o Get Away with Murder
Annalise Keating is many things: a victim, a saviour, a monster to some. She’s hyper-intelligent and driven to win. She flips on a dime, sometimes loving and sometimes cold to the world.
She’s a force majeur, with Viola Davis delivering multiple acting masterclasses per season. She’s also queer and has crackling chemistry with about three quarters of the cast, so that’s a thing. (Let the record show that we’re officially holding out for an Annalise/Tegan pairing in 2018.)
Special mention, Black Mirror
Special shout-out to Yorkie and Kelly from Black Mirror‘s ‘San Junipero’, an Emmy winner, and one of the single most beautiful queer stories ever committed to TV.
While the inclusion of queer women characters is finally starting to feel more than perfunctory, there’s still a lot of ground to cover in terms of the diversity of stories told: the diversity of bodies, skin colours, and backgrounds.
As Lena Waithe, who plays the aforementioned Denise, said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter:
“Look, I always think we can do [queer representation] better. I think a big thing to me is us being able to tell our stories without it being pumped through hands that don’t look like us. I think sometimes you have a gay person or a brown person, we’ve got this great story, and people are like, “OK, we want to make it,” and then they bring in other people and go, “Now, OK, they’re going to rewrite it and we’re going to have notes on it.” I think to me, the real freedom is in having the power to be able to tell your story and to be able to have creative control. […]
Because otherwise, when somebody’s telling our story, it’s their version of it. It’s them looking at it from the outside, versus us telling the story from the inside out. And that’s what I always think we can do better, is more people who are other-ed being able to tell their own story…”
In terms of representation, we’re getting there. But, to echo Waithe, we can still do better. We, for one, look forward to seeing this ‘better’.