Now, after sorting through the thirty thousand plus write-in votes, we have the results, and one thing leaps out at us: you guys certainly have a soft spot for the bad boys! When it comes to television, “gay” and “anti-hero” must to go well together because this list is filled with wily schemers, heartless cads, domestic abusers, street thugs, high school bullies and yes, even a couple stone cold killers. Oh well, at least the guy who ranks #1 is an honest to goodness sweetheart.
A few statistics before we get to the list. Almost every single character in the top 50 came from a show that ran in the current century. The only two exceptions? Roseanne‘s Leon Carp who last appeared on TV in 1997; and the grandaddy of them all, SOAP‘s Jodie Dallas who left the airwaves 32 years ago in 1981. Why the preference for more recent characters? A part of it is probably “out of sight, out of mind,” but it is also true that television overall has just vastly improved in quality since the proliferation of cable, and with that has come an explosion of a multidimensional LGBT characters. There’s just more for gay men to relate to on television these days.
Soap operas might be a dying format, but they still had a surprisingly strong showing on this list, with nine characters coming from serial dramas; five from US daytime and four from as far away as the UK and Germany. And speaking of the UK, seven of the top 50 characters originate from shows produced in that country.
Seven of the top 50 were men of color, including True Blood‘s Lafayette Reynolds, Ugly Betty’s Justin Suarez, The Wire’s Omar Little and Spartacus‘ Nasir. This is a better showing than the last time we conducted this poll. Age diversity may be the bigger issue. Character ages are hard to verify, but it looks as though only a single character over the age of 40 made the Top 50.
Without further ado, here are the Top 50 Greatest Gay TV Characters…
50. Thomas Barrow, Downton Abbey
Actor: Robert James Collier
Previous Rank: N/A
He’s Thomas the footman. And no, he’s not proudly letting his freak flag fly with that title. Actually, he’s not even a footman any more. He’s risen in the ranks to underbutler at Downton, a position he fought hard and deviously for. It was a hard road to get there. Poor guy was dumped by his titled boyfriend in season 1. In season 2 he was sent off to the WWI front. (Resourceful Thomas had to sacrifice part of his hand in order to survive and get shipped home.) In season 3 he fell in love with another butler, a handsome cad who rejected him violently, promptly outed him to everyone at Downton and then called the police on him. Tough times.
It’s true that much of the trouble Thomas faces he brings on himself. He can be spiteful and devious after all. But audiences still have a soft spot for him, probably because he helps us imagine how awful it would have been to be homosexual basically any time post classical Greece and pre-Stonewall.
The enlightened treatment Thomas receives from his employers and most of his fellow servants seems farfetched for the early 20th century, but we’ll forgive Downton Abbey for taking historical license. In fact, we wish they’d take a bit more and let Thomas find a little true happiness with another dashing gay gent…. –AL
49. Steve Jinks, Warehouse 13
Photo: Mark Wilson/Syfy
Actor: Aaron Ashmore
Previous Rank: N/A
Oh Jinksy. Warehouse 13 ends next year after an abbreviated six episode fifth season, and it’s such a shame because we were just starting to get to know Agent Steve Jinks. The character was introduced at the start of the third season, recruited to the warehouse for his as yet unexplained special power — he always knows when someone is lying. He’s also a Buddhist and gay, though we’ve rarely seen him practicing either.
Still, Ashmore brings so much fuzzy-headed charm to the character, and he has such wonderful big bro/little sis chemistry with scrappy Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) that when he was murdered at the end of Season 3 we were almost as unhappy about it as Claudia was.
We cheered when Claudia broke all the rules of the warehouse and used a cursed metronome (don’t ask, it’s complicated) to bring Jinksy back to life.
Good thing, because Jinks is a grounding presence in the cast. There’s that brotherly relationship with Claudia, and he’s often the “straight man” foil to sexy goofball Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock). In season 4 we learned a little more about Jinks’ past when his former boyfriend Liam (Charlie Webber) shows up for an episode. The two looked so sexy together that when they make up and have an offscreen “hookup” gay viewers felt a little cheated.
We’re just hoping in the final six episodes Jinks gets another visit from Liam. Our Jinksy deserves a little love. Preferably onscreen! –AL