Television matters. Who and what we see on our screens each
week tells us a great deal about who and what is relevant in society, who has
power, and who doesn’t. That’s why AfterElton.com pays such close attention to
the shows that have gay characters and gay storylines, analyzing what each new
character and plot twist says about the acceptance of gay and bisexual men in
Television programming as we know it today came into
existence approximately seventy years ago. However, it took thirty-five years
for the first semi-regularly recurring gay character to appear, on The Corner Bar, an 1972 ABC show that lasted
for fifteen episodes and featured Vincent Schiavelli as Peter Panama. Over the
next several years, gay characters popped up on other short-lived shows
including Hot L Baltimore and The Nancy Walker Show, but it wasn’t
until 1977 and Soap that gay and
bisexual men were able to watch a gay character on a show that was an actual hit.
Despite this relatively short history, there was still quite an impressive roster of characters for our readers to choose from for our poll of the Top 25 Gay and Bisexual TV Characters. For the purposes of this poll, we focused only on gay and bisexual male characters (leaving the ladies to our colleagues over at AfterEllen.com) that were substantial roles as opposed to those that only appeared for an episode or two. Our list of potential candidates numbered nearly 150, ranging
all the way back to Peter Panama and, most recently, Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann), a character
introduced on CBS’ As The World Turns
little more than six months ago.
The final results of our survey tilted heavily toward the most
recent representations. Yes, these characters are fresher in viewer’s minds
than are characters from older shows. However, the more recent characters are also
much richer and more fully-developed than were the Matt Fieldings (Melrose Place)
or Steven Carringtons (Dynasty) of twenty years ago.
Therefore it’s not surprising that of our top twenty-five characters
only two – Jodie Dallas of Soap and
Waylon Smithers of The Simpsons –
debuted more than ten years ago. The most recently introduced character to make
the list was, in fact, Noah Mayer of ATWT
who plays the love interest of Luke Snyder (Van Hansis).
It’s also not surprising that the U.S. version of Queer as Folk, arguably the most
successful specifically gay show of all time, placed five characters on our
list. It’s only natural that gay viewers would respond to a show about gay men that
featured gay men prominently rather than as mere window dressing given a few
lines each episode and, if they were lucky, the occasional secondary storyline about
their coming out.
And while Queer as Folk
was certainly controversial, even in the gay community, the show didn’t shy
away from showing gay men as fully developed characters with sexual lives and
storylines that were complicated if not always flattering.
Our list also reflects the fact that television, and
especially gay characters, are still largely the dominion of white men. The
only men of color to make the top 25 were Enrique Rickie Vasquez (My So-Called Life), Keith Charles (Six Feet Under) and George Huang (Law & Order: SVU). It’s also
interesting to note that of the top twenty-five characters six are played by
out gay men – Randy Harrison, Peter Paige, Wilson Cruz, John Barrowman, Robert
Gant, and B.D. Wong – half of whom were on Queer
Without further ado, here are the top twenty-five gay
and bisexual characters of all time!