documentary hack

Visible: Television as a Tool

Ryan White

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

In this episode of Ryan White's 2020 documentary series, Visible: Out on Television, actors and activists discuss how pioneering American LGBTQ+ voices advocated for their rights and for their stories to be told on television in the 1970s.


Visible: Television as a Tool

Visible: Television as a Tool

by Ryan White


How visible were LGBTQ+ Americans on television during the 1970s? Television as a Tool, an episode of director Ryan White's Apple TV+ documentary series, Visible: Out On Television, is narrated by comedian and actor Margaret Cho. Cho and a group of LGBTQ+ activists, actors, and celebrities discuss the challenges of homophobia and erasure LGBTQ+ people faced during this time in American history.

For many years, LGBTQ+ actors had to hide their sexual orientations and keep their identities a secret. Because of this secrecy, straight actors usually portrayed the few gay or lesbian characters on television, and these portrayals often relied on stereotypes. This episode charts 1970s activists taking matters into their own hands to secure LGBTQ+ representation in American media.

Favorite quote

It's hard to talk about this kind of stuff without stressing just how invisible gay people were. Invisibility led to homophobia being standard. And so everything was played for a joke.

- Marsha Warfield, actor

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