Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Children's Media Conference 2013

The Children's Media Conference begins in Sheffield very shortly. And as well as the usual stuff, this year's Conference will feature a session looking at whether children's media are really reflecting the diversity of society when it comes to the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters. Amongst those taking part in the discussion will be Mark Jennett, author of the influential Stand Up For Us guidance, which tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. The session's host/moderator is Julian Scott - former BBC Executive Producer and now CEO of Purple Pictures.

So does children's media reflect the diversity of society?

In fact BBC children's TV first included gay characters over 20 years ago. And BBC children's drama was certainly reflecting diversity when Julian Scott was the Executive Producer of Byker Grove. In this clip from Byker Grove (series 16 episode 15 - October 2004) Bradley comes out to Sadie, his long-term girlfriend.

From Byker Grove (S16E15 - October 2004)

Later he has a heart to heart with her about his sexual orientation. He has to endure a certain amount of homophobia from others at the Grove, but eventually is accepted and meets his soulmate, Nathan.

Bradley & Nathan (S17E20 - November 2005)

The BBC axed Byker Grove in 2006, much to the exasperation of its audience. Since then not one single BBC children's drama has featured a specifically teenage lesbian, gay or bisexual character. A recent episode of The Dumping Ground did include a middle-aged lesbian couple, but the two came across as a bit loopy - hardly the sort of portrayal needed when there are no other LGB characters on children's TV.

Significant opportunities have been missed. Why, for example, did CBBC choose to portray Leonardo da Vinci as essentially heterosexual? And why, so close to his centenary, wasn't the brilliant Alan Turing selected to be one of the ten historical individuals featured in the Absolute Genius series?

The sad truth is that, contrary to widespread belief, there is a lot of homophobia in the media/showbiz world and that prejudice has been in the ascendant over the last few years. A determined effort will be needed to turn children's TV around. We've seen plenty of straight heroes. Equity demands that we see realistic and proportionate representation of our diverse society.

No comments: