Last week I did an interview with Joal Ryan about the legacy of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which gave me an opportunity to think (as I often do) about the way depictions of characters in popular culture (even on so-called “reality” shows) influence our cultural perceptions.
In the process, I thought about an essay a student (yes, you Emma!) wrote for my seminar Culture and the Sitcom last fall. She argued that stereotypical depictions of gay characters – like those in Modern Family and The New Normal – may be damaging.
She championed the recently cancelled ABC series Happy Endings as a truly progressive bit of television because of the Max Blum character, a lazy, schlub who happens to be gay.
For me, we will have reached a tipping point when representations of LGBTQ characters run the gamut rather than cluster around the conventional cultural stereotype that (I suspect) some straight viewers may be comfortable with because those narrow representations perpetuate an “us-them” divide that makes gay men an easily identified “other.” Shows that feed those stereotypes and give them an exclusivity of representation rather than some depictions within a much wider range are not terribly helpful, and – as Emmy points out – may be damaging.
Two final thoughts. First, it occurs to me that Cyrus on Scandal may be one of the more interesting gay characters on television in recent years because he defies all common stereotypes and is terribly complex. Just like real people.
Second, in the two episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo that I watched to see what all the hoopla was about, I learned that Alana’s uncle is gay. Who’d have seen that coming? Defying sterotypes is useful, ultimately, to broaden perspectives.