Podcasts slowly entering the mainstream, as life becomes busier and word spreads, technology improves and millions commute everyday it is no great surprise that audio drama is increasing in popularity, but they are still a little on the fringe market. This fringe market is where Podcasts started, and it was great to not only be able to get amazing podcasts from radio stations and TV networks, but people were making their own, some forming companies and producing podcasts that spread to a massive market.
There are a lot of Podcasts out there that are produced by independent companies or even just an individual that was starting to write and produce something they loved till it became popular and they joined a company and I think it is the independence of Podcasts that gives us some amazing work that would never be picked up by a large company as it would be considered too risky. Can you imagine trying to pitch ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ to a radio network? I do not see them going for it despite its quality and popularity.
With the diversity in what is produced and how it is produced there is no need to write characters that would be considered for the mainstream market, therefore as diverse as our podcasts are we start to get greatly diverse characters. A female lead, go for it, have a black guy as a main character, of course and as I am working towards, gay lead characters.
It was an unexpected delight to start listening to ‘Welcome To Nightvale’ and learn that the lead character was gay and it was just part of the character, it was not a plot point, it was not a conflict, there was no worrying about how he felt, it was just another part of him, a genuine representation of a person, not a gimmick, not a caricature, just a person having those problems.
This was neatly followed up by Alice Isn’t Dead, where a trucker is traveling across country looking for her wife. Again her sexuality is just there, it is not played up on, she is well rounded character who just happens to be gay. Nice going from the Nightvale group there.
I have also been listening to The Bright Sessions, where there is another character who is gay. When a relationship starts to blossom the gender of the other person involved is barely mentioned as and is only very subtly brought up as something that might be causing a little conflict for their character. Mostly the conflict in the relationship comes from other things, those around the couple seem perfectly excepting and happy for them, and at no point does the character ‘Come out’. Combine this with other gay characters, a bisexual character and an asexual, and we have a podcast that gives us some great representation.
Add to this the fact there are so many factual podcasts that talk to people all over the sexual and gender spectrum, from Polyamory weekly, a great little podcast that gives advice to those in poly relationships, sex advice podcasts that remember that not everyone is a straight couple and kink advice podcasts, anyone can find something they like, feel represented and appreciated.
Characters like this are often missing from TV shows, we get the gay best friend, we get the teen ‘coming out’ and finding themselves, we get side characters and dead gays, but we rarely get a lead who just happens to be gay. Representation is important and we know how TV and movies are starting to give us diversity, they are starting to understand that the world is not made up of straight, white men, but it is still very slow.
Podcasts, with their independent productions, millions of listeners and freedom to create the content they want are storming ahead in the world of acceptance and diversity. It isn’t a perfect Podcasting world of acceptance and love, but if you want it it is there and that is something TV and movies are still taking their time to haul their butts into.