This month, GLAAD staff met with CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler and over a dozen senior executives in charge of entertainment programming at CBS for an honest discussion about CBS' recent history of problematic transgender media representations and ways in which GLAAD can help CBS create more fair and accurate portrayals of our community.
CBS was actually an early leader in transgender media representations, airing The Education of Max Bickford in 2001, a show that included the first regular transgender character on broadcast television. And the CBS show Cold Case earned GLAAD Media Award nominations for two episodes that dealt with transgender hate crimes.
Nick Adams, GLAAD's Associate Director of Communications and one of GLAAD's transgender staffers, presented a basic introduction to the transgender community, and then took an in-depth look at how the community has been represented on CBS. Using several clips from recent CBS shows, he pointed out how anti-trans images in the media contribute to a culture that does not treat transgender people equally.
He also pointed out several opportunities where CBS could easily improve its transgender representations, including expanding the role of "Ms. Hudson," a transgender character played by Candis Cayne on Elementary, and by adding transgender contestants to Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother.
Research shows that around 90% of Americans personally know someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual, but less than 10% know someone who is transgender. This means that most Americans can weigh firsthand knowledge when considering defamatory or insensitive media coverage of the LGB community, but the vast majority of Americans have no personal connection to someone who is transgender, so they rely solely on the media for information.
CBS has received a "Failing" rating on three out of the last five Network Responsibility Index (NRI) reports created by GLAAD. Feedback from the CBS executives in the room was quite positive, and we look forward to CBS improving its rating on the NRI in the future.
Matt Kane, GLAAD's Associate Director of Entertainment Media, said: "GLAAD is hopeful that this meeting will encourage more inclusive, sophisticated, and realistic portrayals of trans people on CBS, and we're committed to working with the network to ensure that happens."