Representation undoubtedly drives viewership and these works are proof of this — fans turned out to see these works in part because of the representation (of women, racial or religious minorities, a disability, or gender or sexual orientations) they provided.
What constitutes as "representation" varies widely. In some cases, it isn't a very big part of the work. Perhaps it is one of very few works that contain a character from a certain minority group. Maybe its minority characters are non-stereotypical and nuanced, or its portrayal of an underrepresented culture is well-researched and respectful. In other cases, the work markets itself in part on the representation it provides. Maybe it is the first work of its kind to have a lead from one demographic or have a cast majorly composed of said demographic.
The works themselves may be anything from highly anticipated blockbusters to lowkey network comedies to older works that depicted minority characters well by the standards of the time they were made and are just now getting recognition from the mainstream. A More Diverse Sequel or reboot/remake might take advantage of more liberal attitudes behind the scenes and diversify the cast of a preexisting property to take advantage of this. Works that women watched for their strong female characters may be a Feminist Fantasy.
Note that this is only about audiences deciding to consume a work for its representation. While many works are praised for well-done diversity, a well-meaning work might still fumble in its execution and lose the favor of the group they were trying to represent in the first place, resulting in accusations of baiting or exploitation. "Queerbaiting" is a specific term in LGBT circles when LGBT representation is teased for attention from the community but ultimately withheld.
Subtrope of Just Here for Godzilla, which covers any peripheral element of a work that fans come in to see. Non-main minority characters whose portrayals are praised might also be Ensemble Darkhorses. Compare LGBT Fanbase, the Periphery Demographic of fans who consume something regardless of any LGBT content, and Germans Love David Hasselhoff for cases where a foreign country likes a work (perhaps because it portrays their country well). Compare and contrast Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales, where a culture likes a caricature of them against all odds. Contrast Minority Show Ghetto, Girl-Show Ghetto, and Queer Show Ghetto, the notion that minorities/women/LGBT characters will only be popular among those demographics.
- The popularity of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy exploded in 2015 after DC Comics revealed that the two are in an open sexual relationship. This made them the most high-profile same-sex pairing in comics, and also made them popular amongst the Polyamory crowd as well.
- Ms. Marvel (2014): Kamala Khan gained a lot of positive press and immediate popularity for being a teenage, Pakistani-American Muslim female superheroine. This made her popular amongst a multitude of different minority groups, and she proved to be an interesting and refreshing character within her own right, due to her Fun Personified personality combined with tackling various real-life issues like body image and bigotry. Her success sparked a a new wave of female and/or minority heroes, including Silk, Ironheart, Sam Alexander and America Chavez, as well as pushing others into the spotlight, such as Jane Foster and Amadeus Cho.
- Blade: Way before the MCU was a thing, Marvel actually turned some heads with this film back in the late 90s/early 2000s. Not only because he was, at the time, one of the lesser known heroes from their stockade, but because he was a person of color at that, so getting his own movie was certainly a draw for many African-Americans.
- Asian-Americans turned out in droves for Crazy Rich Asians, the first major film to have an all-Asian American cast in 25 years, and one that focused on both Singaporean Chinese and Chinese-American culture. Unprecedentedly, Asian-Americans made up almost 40% of the premiere weekend box office.
- Ghostbusters (2016) attracted a large female audience, including those new to the franchise, who were interested in seeing an all-female Ghostbusters team.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Black Panther (2018) was the first MCU production to have a majority Black cast. In addition to the superhero fare, Black fans tuned in for the Black All-Star Cast, the way the film addressed real issues of colonialism and diasporic identity, and the film's celebration of African and African-American cultures. It grossed over a billion dollars and was the first MCU film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
- Captain Marvel (2019) was the first MCU film to be headlined by a female superhero, which brought out a female viewing audience of just under half, compared to the normal superhero movie audience statistic of being about 40% female.
- Wonder Woman (2017) had the draw of being one of the first major female-led superhero films in over a decade, the first in the DC Extended Universe, and the first major film about Wonder Woman, who had long been positioned as a feminist icon. Women responded positively — over half of the viewing audience in the United States was femalenote .
- The Babysitters Club: As documented in The Claudia Kishi Club, released ahead of the 2020 remake, plenty of Asian-American kids and teens picked up the books for Claudia Kishi, the club's airheaded, boy-crazy, and fashion-forward Japanese-American member, for her creativity and non-stereotypical depiction.
- The 100: Season 2 drew in a lot of new fans with the introduction of Lexa, the cool and composed Grounder Commander who happened to be a lesbian. The character was seen as positive lesbian representation, and her tension with Clarke also revealed the latter was bisexual.
- Black Lightning: The show is a huge draw among audiences, especially African-Americans, for starring a Black superhero in a landscape where the majority of superhero shows are led by white protagonists. It also has an LGBT Fanbase courtesy of the title character's lesbian daughter and her relationship with an Asiannote woman named Grace Choi.
- Luke Cage (2016) was considered an extremely timely series, starring an African-American superhero right at the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter Movement, which helped gather tons of views and positive press. The creators acknowledged the serendipity, and the powerful symbolism of a bulletproof, heroic Black man in a hoodie shortly after Treyvon Martin (a young Black man in a hoodie) had been shot. However, they stated that this was just a case of extremely good timing, as the symbolism was not intentional.
- Nurses (2020) has become popular partly as a result of this, as it has an Indo-Canadian and a Black Canadian amongst the main characters, and also portrays sexual assault victims realistically, with the protagonist Grace Knight a victim of sexual harassment/assault. Its fanbase likes the fact that Ashley Collins, the Indo-Canadian character doesn't get portrayed as Asian Airhead, Asian Rudeness or Asian Speekee Engrish, but a more realistic, nuanced take. Although it hasn't covered LGBT/non-binary issues much, it's been praised for a diverse cast.
- Orange Is the New Black became popular largely because of its representation of various races, sexualities, and gender identities. Laverne Cox's character Sophia received a lot of praise in particular for being a trans female character played by a trans woman. However, as later plot points were criticized for using this representation poorly — most infamously the Black lesbian character Poussey being suffocated to death in a manner reminiscent of a real-life high profile Police Brutality case — members of these demographics tuned out.
- One Day at a Time (2017) maintained a small but passionate fanbase who praised the show's majority-Latinx cast. In addition, many fans liked that one of the main relationships was between that of a Latina lesbian and her nonbinary partner.
- Rutherford Falls marketed itself on being the first sitcom with a majority-Native American writers room and a cast largely comprised of Natives, and received positive feedback from Native media outlets for making Native issues and identity politics a central part of its narrative.
- Parodied in the Saturday Night Live sketch Lesbian Period Drama, a trailer for a fake movie. Despite the Cliché Storm, wooden acting, and the leads being played by straight actresses, the review from "Lesbians Monthly" just reads, "Sure. I mean, I'm gonna see it."
- Sense8 attracted some people who were general SF fans, or fans of J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis, but an awful lot of fans watched it because it was a show conceived by two trans women that had prominent LBGT characters and a positive attitude towards polyamory.
- Star Trek: The Original Series was very popular with Black viewers when it came out, because it featured the character Uhura, who was one of the few Black characters on TV at the time not to be a walking stereotype. None other than Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan and went so far as to say it was the only primetime show he let his kids watch, and encouraged Nichelle Nichols to stay in the role when she was considering leaving over racist treatment by the crew.
- Star Trek: Discovery got a lot of attention for featuring the franchise's first homosexual characters Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, played by real life gay actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz, though unfortunately this got them in some hot water when Culber was temporarily killed, and the huge backlash forced them to spoil that he'd be coming back and the story wasn't just Bury Your Gays. In Season 3 this increased with the introduction of non-binary Adira Tal, played by actual NB actor Blu del Bario, complete with a storyline of becoming comfortable enough to come out to the rest of the crew.
- At the same time Star Trek: Picard brought back Seven of Nine with Word of Gay from Jeri Ryan that she was bisexual, and she ends the first season holding hands with female character Rafi, in what some saw as a Take That! to Rick Berman, who was singlehandedly responsible for killing just about every attempt to introduce LGBT characters into the franchise in the '80s and '90s, saying it wouldn't feel natural to show gay couples holding hands.
- Many Deaf/Hard of Hearing people tuned in to Switched at Birth (a show that prominently features Deaf culture as several of its characters, including one of its protagonists, are Deaf) to see how the show would depict their mannerisms, culture and community.
- Flower Drum Song, despite including what some consider outdated stereotypes, still enjoys a strong fan base among Asian American viewers: the film adaptation is noted for being one of the very few Hollywood films of its era to feature an almost entirely Asian and Asian American cast. As David Henry Hwang (who revised the book for the Broadway revival) said of the film, "It was kind of a Guilty Pleasure... and one of the only big Hollywood films where you could see a lot of really good Asian actors onscreen, singing and dancing and cracking jokes." Meanwhile, the solo number "I Enjoy Being a Girl" gained classic status for inadvertently representing a different fan base....
- Homestuck, while already more popular than the author's previous works, picked up a large new fanbase starting in Act 5 with the introduction of the Trolls, a race of bisexual-by-default aliens. Many people who picked up the comic later on in its run were drawn in by the comic's Everyone Is Bi nature, Queer Romance, and exploration of LGBT identity that started emerging around that time.
- Sister Claire started to garner this reputation after the author, Yamino, came out as as a lesbian and her partner joined in on writing the story. Even moreso when a good majority of the cast turned out to be gay, bi or trans. Yamino herself is a major advocate for gay pride on Twitter, so that likewise helped.
- In-Universe in Trans Girl Next Door, in which Kylie, a trans girl, is apparently watching Orange Is the New Black Season 2 just for Laverne Cox and her trans character and complains that there aren't more scenes with her.
- Craig of the Creek is incredibly popular with the Black community for its positive Black representation, as well as the numerous LGBTQ+ side characters.
- Danger & Eggs is best known for its LGBT representation, including explicit transgender rep — a rarity in a children's show. It's also the first cartoon series created by a trans woman. Many LGBT people watched and promoted the show for that overt representation.
- Hero Elementary gained a lot of fans because of AJ Gadgets, who is not only autistic, but also Black — a conscious choice on the part of the creators since Black children are less likely to be diagnosed with autism even though they too can be autistic.
- The Loud House: With a cast of mostly female leads, it was no surprise one of them (Luna) eventually turned out to be a lesbian. Clyde, Lincoln's Black friend, was also the adopted son of an interracial gay male couple. Both have been well received from their communities.
- Later on the series spin-off, The Casagrandes gained a following from the Hispanic community and also the disabled community for one of the family members having Down syndrome.
- Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts included not just a racially diverse cast, but a Black gay character (Benson) who actually referred to himself as "gay," a rarity in children's television. This got the show a sizable LGBT Fanbase who used Benson as a major selling point to animation fans.
- Molly of Denali focuses on Alaska Native characters, stories, and traditions, and has indigenous people at every level of production, making the show very authentic and genuine. The show gained a lot of positive press for its native representation and a ton of Native teens and adults watch the show.
- The Owl House: The fanbase of the show grew almost overnight once it was revealed that main character Luz was not only bisexual, but would also be getting a female Love Interest in the form of lesbian Amity.
- Quite a lot of fans tuned in to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for its varied representation. The diverse cast was always a selling point, especially for little kids. While the LGBT representation was more of the "plausible deniability" flavor early on, vocal support from fans who picked up on the queer subtext enabled more varied and explicit depictions of queerness in later seasons. As the representation became more explicit, it also got a lot of attention for being set in a world where sexual orientation simply doesn't seem to be any kind of issue for anyone, with not a single character ever batting an eye when someone turns out to be non-hetero, enabling them to have stories like anyone else with zero Gayngst.
- South Park attracted a lot more young LGBT fans shortly after "Tweek x Craig," the episode that parodied the Yaoi Genre and paved the way for Tweek and Craig to become the first canonically gay students in the series. Despite Tweek and Craig being secondary characters at best, a lot of these fans care more about them than any major character.
- While Steven Universe was already popular, the fandom exploded after the premiere of "Jail Break", which revealed that Garnet is a romantic fusion of two feminine Gems named Ruby and Sapphire. Then it became clear that Gems are actually a mono-gendered race where every single romantic attraction between them is homosexual by default. In fact, when Insider created a database in 2021 of non-hetero characters in children's cartoons, Steven Universe absolutely dominated the list with 39 characters. Only the above-mentioned She-Ra came anywhere close with 23.
- Twelve Forever: While not advertised much, word did spread that its lead, Reggie, was gay and a subplot featured her gaining a crush on a fellow schoolmate. Two of the residents of Endless Island were also a gay male couple. This allowed the series to gain fans from the LGBTQ community.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender already had a large LGBT Fanbase around Shiro thanks to his good looks, likeable personality, and what many saw as romantic subtext with Keith, but once it was revealed that he was canonically gay in later seasons, his popularity exploded. Unfortunately, that same LGBT fanbase vanished as the show neared its end, due to backlash against his character arc which, among many other unpopular decisions, saw him Demoted to Extra immediately after the reveal. The show culminating in him marring a random background extra, rather than anyone he actually knew or had chemistry with, was also heavily criticized by gay fans.