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Is TV As Gay Friendly As We Think It Is?

by Sophia Savage
January 2, 2013 4:08 PM
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Chris Colfer, Rolling Stone
'Glee' star Chris Colfer in Rolling Stone

NPR delivered a superbly reported expose on its January 2 Morning Edition: "Who's Gay on TV?" White gay dads, they concluded, are "the pop culture gay flavor of the minute."

There's been a "staggering sea change" of gay representation on TV, from fifty years ago to today. From reality shows to sit-coms, "Modern Family" to "The New Normal," Ellen DeGeneres to "Glee," gay characters are everywhere. But this may not be as revolutionary as increased exposure suggests. Gay representation still hits the same walls as other minorities. NPR states, "Last fall, Gallup released findings about its largest poll ever about gay Americans. Slightly more women identified as gay than men, and more African-Americans, Asians and Latinos said they were LGBT than whites. So where's that on TV?"

We may be in a boom with adequate numbers of gay characters on TV, and it may be very culturally hip to be gay, but is the representation inclusive, accurate and progressive? When homosexuality is the overarching personality trait of a character--which we still see, if with decreasing frequency--it's still limiting their representation to something audiences can be comfortable with, keeping them at arms length as an other that isn't fully realized. Ironically, their sexuality--the thing that makes them gay--is still largely kept offscreen.

Gayness may be the flavor of the minute, but until the new normal is characters like Omar Little in "The Wire"--a fascinating character who just happens to be gay (and whose sexuality has little to do with his character and its importance to the series)--we're still treating gay men and women like second class TV citizens, used as tokens or novelties.

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More: Television, TV, News, Media


  • GKelly | January 3, 2013 9:56 PMReply

    I agree that the LGBT community is not being represented accurately, however I would like to stress that in addition to the use of these characters for 'novelty', the idea that it is 'culturally hip to be gay' is also somewhat damaging. Gay characters are often drastically accepted (i.e. homophobia? what homophobia? I thought we addressed that in that one episode that one time), or rejected, with incredibly tragic story-lines that often end in suicide and are lauded as being 'realistic'. I honestly don't know why writers cannot have queer characters who are three dimensional human beings.

  • JanBrady | January 2, 2013 4:48 PMReply

    Its a wonder why so many remain prejudice. No matter what happens to move forward a twist will bring it back to a prejudice issue. I am gay and happy to watch families portrayed on TV as normal-like, not just relating it to what happens behind their bedroom doors. Whites, Blacks, or Latinos, gays on TV portrayed as loving and nurturing adults is a step forward. Stop making it two steps back.

  • Wrath of Colin | January 2, 2013 4:37 PMReply

    Why do people have to make issues out of everything? The only time I ever hear gays mentioned is when someone is trying to stir up homophobic debates like this one. It's just a lifestyle choice, it doesn't have to be such a drama.

    And way to go with the homoerotic stereotype picture!

  • No | January 2, 2013 4:37 PMReply

    That's the American can way: Even when you let the "other" in, it is regulated to other-dom and and nowhere else.

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