In an interview with AfterElton.com, Terra Nova exec. producer Brannon Braga – who cut his teeth writing and producing Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – lamented the fact that Star Trek has never once included an out gay character in a movie or TV series. “It was a shame for a lot of us,” Braga said. “It was not a forward-thinking decision.” Yes, there was the occasional episode where, say, Commander Riker falls in love with an alien from a genderless world, or Dr. Crusher falls in love with a male alien who (thanks the symbiotic organism living inside it, naturally) changes bodies to a female – who Crusher then spurns. But as far as an out-and-proud same-sex loving character, the otherwise socially progressive and diverse Star Trek universe is stuck in the closet.
Braga does contended that had the shows been airing today, the TNG and DS9 creative teams “wouldn’t have been squeamish” about introducing a gay Trek character. Perhaps. For one thing, I always kinda wondered if Data, in his exploration of what it means to be human, would ever get intimate with a male crew-mate the same way he did with Tasha Yar. (Slash fiction tells me I am not alone in this overshare.) I also got to thinking: What other TV series have a surprisingly specific lack of diversity?
I’m not talking about quotas here, by the way. I’m talking about TV shows in which the setting and premise naturally provide for a widely diverse cast – or in the case of Star Trek outright demand it – yet nonetheless are notably missing a key subset of society.
Like, say, Lost, a show boasting one of the most diverse casts imaginable – race, ethnicity, nationality, age, physical ability, size, socio-economic position, morality, corporeal status – but featuring only a single gay character (Mr. Friendly) who appeared in just a handful of episodes, barely acknowledged his sexuality, and was killed halfway through the run of the show. (To be fair, the homoerotic subtext between Jack and Sawyer kinda counts too.) Friends, set in one of the most diverse places on the planet – Manhattan – was famously lacking in racial and ethnic diversity. (Seinfeld too.) The West Wing added the African-American character Charlie Young (Dulé Hill) to its cast after the pilot episode when some people noted it was odd the White House didn’t appear to have any people of color among its staff. And I see more Latino people driving through Beverly Hills every day on the way to work than have showed up on The CW’s 90210.
Tedious and pedantic? Totally. But it’s still worth pointing out, especially with shows like Glee and Grey’s Anatomy doing such a fabulous job capturing a wide viewing audience with a widely diverse cast of characters that also happen to realistically reflect real-life high schools and hospitals. So what TV shows have surprised you with their lack of diversity?