Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is TV Gay Enough? read the title of a link on my ISP's home page. With a subject that titillating, how could I resist clicking on it? What I found--in reaction to a recent GLAAD Study on network television's portrayals of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender characters as reported by Reuter's--was a message board survey to elicit reaction on the study.

Note: If you are gay or know and care about someone who is gay, do NOT read the messages on this forum! And if you do, don't bother rebutting the ignorance. As the saying goes, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig..."

Response was particularly narrow-minded and vehemently bigoted--partially due to the fact that the survey options as to how they would rate TV's portrayal of GLBT issues/characters was limited to:

Excellent: Representation has never been better -- I'm truly impressed!
Good: A nice effort, but there's room for some improvement.
Fair: They're just filling quotas -- much more work needs to be done.
Failing: It's never been worse -- open your eyes to the world, network execs!

with no option for the "Isaiah Washington" response of:
None of the above: Get all faggots off TV!!!
Many responses were fallacy-ridden claims such as homosexuality is against nature (but not according to this article in National Geographic), or that all homosexuals are pedophiles (again, a mistaken assumption) or when logic and reason (and I use those terms very loosely!) fails, then The Bible thumpers cite "God's Word" or "God's Will."

According to the GLAAD study, there is still much work to be done--but we've certainly come a long way in depicting all sorts of different races, cultures and lifestyles since the days of Leave it to Beaver. It was in 1977 that ABC introduced a gay character in the form of Jody Dallas (played by Billy Crystal) on the prime time comedy Soap. ABC broke ground again with a gay character on a daytime drama with Emmy-winning performance of Eden Riegel's Bianca Montgomery on All My Children and recently introduced a transgender character and storyline (Zarf/Zoe) to the show.

Long before Doug Savant was Felicity Huffman's "lesser half" on Desperate Housewives, he portrayed Matt Fielding--a gay man and, ironically, the moral compass of the "depravity-filled" Melrose Place. Although Matt rarely was shown in a relationship, his presence and Savant's performance helped "normalize" the perception of gays in America.

Unlike the overrated and GLAAD-awarded Will and Grace--which (although fitfully funny) did little to portray gays and lesbians in a positive or normal light. In my opinion, the over-the-top, stereotypical depictions of gays as self-absorbed drama queens accomplished little in educating or changing public attitudes. Certainly there are gays who are flamboyant drag queens--but there are gays who are unassuming accountants as well. While it's certainly easier to get a cheap laugh from the clichéd kitsch of a Jack McFarland, a more nuanced and three-dimensional characterization would go a long way towards opening minds.

With Will and Grace's exit from the airwaves, gay characters on network TV may have decreased in number, but according to an article in The Hollywood Reporter they have increased in complexity--thanks in part to characters such as Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) on NBC's long-running ER, Andrew Van de Camp (Shawn Pyform) of ABC's Desperate Housewives and Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) on another ABC drama, Brothers and Sisters.

The shows GLAAD did like? Well, in addition to Brothers and Sisters, they also gave kudos to Ugly Betty--which not only features Michael Urie, playing Betty's gay co-worker Marc St. James, but also the transgender character of Alex/Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn) and possibly gay but definitely fey character of Betty's nephew, Justin played by Mark Indelicato.

Is TV gay enough? For many of the "red state" mindset, the answer is TV is too gay and their solution is to slam the closet door shut. But given that this ugly and small-minded attitude still persists, obviously TV isn't gay enough--or Black enough, or Asian enough, or Latino enough, or female enough. But I hope we come to a point where we don't create gay characters vs. straight characters or black characters vs. white characters, but rather intriguing multi-faceted characters--some of whom that just happen to be gay (or Black or Latino or female...)

No comments:

Post a Comment